The war between Kurds and Turks heats up: Hopes for a peaceful settlement of an eight-year-old conflict are being swept away by the disintegration of political dialogue and rapidly escalating violence on both sides, reports Hugh Pope from Ankara

MORE than 50 people have died in Turkey's Kurdish war in just four days, part of an upsurge of violence that is sweeping aside hopes of an early democratic and peaceful solution to the escalating eight-year-old conflict.

A dialogue between the Turkish government and Kurdish nationalists that tentatively started when Suleyman Demirel, the Prime Minister, formed a coalition government nine months ago, has broken down.

All but two of 20 Kurdish nationalist deputies have left the coalition in recent weeks.

'They didn't accept a single one of our suggestions. The political dialogue is cut,' said Mahmut Alinak, one of the parliamentarians. 'Huge state repression is being applied in the south-east, torture is rising. Many people are joining the PKK (Kurdish rebels) as their only choice.'

Despite all its efforts, or probably because of the way its security forces carry them out, Turkey has been unable to eradicate this Marxist-Stalinist organisation that refines and smuggles drugs, executes 'collaborators' and their families, extorts money from Kurds in Europe and is labelled terrorist by several countries, including Britain.

'The PKK wants to do things by force. We wanted to do it democratically, legally,' said Mr Alinak. 'But the security forces beat people up in front of us, swear at us. That makes people lose hope in what we stand for.'

There are at least another 40 old-fashioned 'assimilated' Kurds in the parliament, including Hikmet Cetin, the Turkish Foreign Minister. But they command little mass support and the failed coalition experiment has washed out one of the last institutional bridges between the state and the new and politically more important Kurdish radicals.

Two different worlds are developing: a Turkish West, with the economic dynamism of Istanbul, the pleasant streets of Ankara and lovely Mediterranean coastline; and a Kurdish East, with plains and mountains of raw beauty, relatively poor, dusty towns, big families, and its soldiers, curfews and bloodshed.

By crude estimates, Kurds make up 20 per cent or 12 million of Turkey's 57 million people, more than half of them living in the West, some refugees from the fighting but mostly attracted by hopes of economic advancement.

Unprecedented television coverage of south-eastern violence this year has rolled back the blanket of 70 years of state assimilation policies, bringing a new national awareness among Kurds and an anti-Kurdish backlash among Turks.

Mutual understanding was shown to be low by a poll in the mass-circulation Sabah. About 55 per cent of Turks thought that the problem was a Kurdish wish for an independent state, but only 1 per cent of Kurds agreed. The Turks saw the main problem as economic, while a third of Kurds said it was simply the old story of state oppression.

Turkey has so far hoped that somehow the 70-year-old mix of economic development, Turkish nationalism and raw force would keep Turks and Kurds bound together and spare its people the end-game ethnic struggles of its neighbours in the Levant, Balkans and the Caucasus.

The government's tactic of re- asserting is authority by force has worked in the past; some diplomats believe it can still keep Kurdish nationalism down.

Promised liberalisation has evaporated, the Kurds are still denied any 'minority' status and the issue of Kurdish television is no longer even on the agenda. Human rights groups say there are summary executions by both sides, particularly death squad- style killings of Kurdish nationalists in the south-east.

Sources close to Mr Demirel say he is simply too busy to deal with the Kurdish question, especially since the PKK and Kurdish nationalist movements have great internal problems and lack strong leadership. Pro-Kurdish moves can also only lose Mr Demirel votes in his western Turkish power base.

But much has changed since the start of the PKK's armed struggle in August 1984. The government says the group can field 10,000 guerrillas under the protection of an impromptu alliance of Turkey's rivals: Syria, Iraq and Iran. About 4,200 people have died in the fighting, a quarter of them in the past six months - about five a day on average.

After last year's Kurdish exodus from Iraq, foreign governments and public opinion, especially in Germany, are also now firmly engaged on the Kurdish question.

'The Demirel government has left the Kurdish problem to time . . . this is a great mistake,' said a report by Adnan Kahveci, an opposition deputy and former minister under the centre-right Motherland Party. 'We must stop the hidden and fast-rising separation (of Kurds and Turks) and accept Kurdish language and political rights. Otherwise we will have a civil war very soon.'

(Photographs omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders