For Foreign Policy
In the run-up to Turkey’s ongoing operation against Kurdish nationalist forces in northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presided over a sweeping crackdown on Kurdish mayors in Turkey, justified by the same impetus: connections to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
In Turkey, support for the PKK, which Ankara and Washington consider a terrorist group, has long been grounds for dismissal or imprisonment. But what exactly constitutes support is subject to the state’s discretion, and the line is by no means fixed. Instead, it ebbs and flows, determined by developments in the ongoing conflict between the government and Kurdish separatists—or by the election cycle. Now, among members of the mainstream opposition, objections to these erratic policies, and the damage they have done to the country’s democracy, have begun to mount—for good reason. For the first time, politicians with no ties to Kurdish politics have begun to express fear that Erdogan might apply the same tactics more broadly, against anyone who opposed him. And pushing out popularly elected Kurdish politicians could backfire, making peace even harder to achieve.
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