Islamist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan falsely claimed Turkey had never “carried out any civilian massacres” in an attempt to assure the world that Ankara is not attempting ethnic cleansing against the Syrian Kurds on Wednesday.
The founding of modern Turkey was defined by the genocide of Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians that began in 1915; the Turkish government has yet to recognize the genocide and regularly claims that the Christian civilians were actually war combatants, providing no evidence. Some have gone so far as to blame the Armenians for their own massacre.
Erdogan launched “Operation Peace Spring” last week, which Turkish officials have admitted is intended to eradicate the ethnic Kurdish presence in Rojava, or Syrian Kurdistan, to create a “safe zone” for the return of some of the four million mostly Arab refugees currently in Turkey. Kurdish officials in Rojava say the displacement of the indigenous Kurdish population is akin to ethnic cleansing.
Many Kurds and others, in the region and abroad, have blamed President Donald Trump for “Operation Peace Spring,” as Trump announced he would relocate troops in Rojava to other areas of Syria given the lack of an Islamic State threat in the region currently. Trump is only legally authorized to use military action against al-Qaeda and its affiliates as per the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) Congress passed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The Islamic State is an offshoot of al-Qaeda formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.
Erdogan, departing Azerbaijan for a summit visit there, attempted to assure the world that Turkey would attempt genocide against the Kurdish people by pointing to Turkey’s history – which, he failed to note, includes modern history’s first genocide.
“Turkey has never committed any civilian massacre in its history and it never will. Our religion and culture would never allow to do it,” Erdogan alleged, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. “If you’re looking for civilian massacres, look at Afghanistan, Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Upper Karabakh, and Bosnia,” where Muslims were slaughtered late in the last century and in this one, Erdogan said. “If you want to see civilian massacres, look at Cyprus before Turkey’s intervention, look at Palestine just under your nose, where the Muslims are deliberately killed in the streets.”
Erdogan excluded the mass internment of Muslims in concentration camps in Xinjiang, China – where many are being murdered, forcibly sterilized, or cut open for their vital organs – from his list of alleged genocides against Muslims around the world. Chinese media have previously quoted him supporting the concentration camps.
Erdogan insisted once again that the Turkish military is fighting “terrorists” in Rojava, not “Syrians.” Ankara regularly refers to all Kurds as “terrorists” and has arrested dozens of Kurdish politicians and allies from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) for unsubstantiated accusations of “terrorism.”
The Turkish president also rejected any attempt to dialogue with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the largely Kurdish militia that allied with the United States to destroy the physical Islamic State centered in Raqqa.
“The Republic of Turkey never in its history sat down at a table with terrorist groups. We are not looking for a mediator for that,” he said.
Erdogan’s claim that the Turks have never perpetrated a civilian massacre ignores the murder of 75 percent of the Armenian population existing in 1915, about 1.5 million people. Another nearly million Christians of Assyrian and Greek descent were massacred in the process of creating a “Turkish” state. Referring to the Armenian genocide as a “genocide” is illegal in Turkey.
Turkish officials typically claim that the killings either never occurred, were much less numerous than historians claim, or that the Armenians committed genocide against themselves. During the internationally observed anniversary of the Armenian genocide this year, Erdogan instead argued that the killings and relocation of millions of Armenians out of their homes in Turkey was “reasonable.”
“The relocation of the Armenian gangs and their supporters, who massacred the Muslim people, including women and children, in eastern Anatolia, was the most reasonable action that could be taken in such a period,” Erdogan said. “The doors of our archives are wide open to all seeking the truth.”
Erdogan has for months discussed a similar relocation plan of Kurds out of Syria.
“We are aiming in the first phase to create safe zones where four million Syrians who now live in our country can return,” Erdogan said in January. The “safe zone” would be in Rojava, created by the removal of the SDF and Kurdish civilians to allow for the establishment of a Syrian Arab population there. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) NGO called the plan “demographic change” at the time.
Gulnur Aybet, a senior Erdogan adviser, confirmed this week that the two objectives in “Operation Peace Spring” are the removal of indigenous Kurdish populations, which she referred to as a “terrorist group,” and “the return of about one to two million Syrian refugees,” most of which are of Arab descent.
Tens of thousands of Kurds in Europe protested this weekend against “ethnic cleansing” in the service of “jihad,” their interpretation of Erdogan’s plan. Erdogan is an openly Islamist leader who publicly supports the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The Order will authorize a broad range of consequences, including financial sanctions, the blocking of property, and barring entry into the United States,”the president said.
“Our goal is clear. We’re not worried about any sanctions,” Erdoğan responded on Tuesday.