But the stakes keep risingby David Barchard / June 10, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Should Turkey join the EU?
How much worse is Turkey’s struggle with the PKK going get? The question is prompted by the car bomb attack at Vezneciler in the heart of Istanbul’s old city last Tuesday, carried out against a police bus on its way to work during the morning rush hour, left 11 people—six of them police officers—dead and 36 others injured. PKK [Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê] has not yet claimed responsibility but the bombing seems almost certainly to be its work. Similar bombings in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, in February and March left a total of at least 67 people dead.
Those are only part of the picture. In the mainly Kurdish-speaking heartlands of southeastern Turkey, a grim battle between the authorities and the PKK has been under way for months. Districts of the region’s main towns have been reduced to wrecks by search and arrest operations to flush out militants in curfews lasting continuously for 82 days. The PKK has responded with regular ambushes and bombings of soldiers and police outside the towns. One soldier was shot dead in the south east the day before the Istanbul car bombing. Two others, both policewomen, one pregnant, died in Midyat the day after it. 51 others were injured.
It is difficult to keep count of the casualty figures. Last September, 126 soldiers and police died in the first 80 days after the cease-fire ended on 22nd July. By last April Turkish press estimates put the total at around 400 and it seems to be rising by an average of about two casualties a day. By way of comparison, around 1000 British soldiers lost their lives in 30 years in Northern Ireland.
The PKK issues no figures for its losses—but the armed forces said earlier this month that 495 PKK militants YPS/HPG died in the town of Nusaybin and 489 in Şırnak during curfew operations lasting less than three months. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who launched the operations last summer says 7,600 PKK militants have been “neutralised.”
In many countries, loss of life on this scale would be prompting some kind of debate. It is certainly leada young Turks in the army and police to…