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Turkey’s anti-PKK assault leaves Kurds more divided

Turkey’s unremitting assault against the PKK is destabilizing Iraqi Kurdistan, weakening the rebels on the one hand while bolstering support for them among disaffected locals on the other.
Iraqi riot police protect the Turkish embassy in Baghdad on Feb. 18, 2021 after calls on social media to gather outside the Turkish embassy to protest Turkey's vows to invade the northwestern enclave of Sinjar.

On Nov. 16, 2013, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan presided over a mass wedding in the Kurds’ informal capital, Diyarbakir, amid piercing ululations and wild applause. Massoud Barzani, the then-president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and two celebrated Kurdish crooners shared the stage. It was an electrifying moment, one that captured the new spirit of peace between Turkey and its estimated 16 million Kurds. Talks between the Turkish government and imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan to end the now 37-year conflict between Turkey and Ocalan’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were in full swing. A mutually observed cease-fire was in place.

For Siwan Perwer, whose nationalist songs have inspired millions of Kurds, it was the first time he was setting foot in his native Anatolia after 37 years of political exile. “When I left this place, I was a young man. Now I have returned an old man,” Perwer said. Erdogan “is the architect of this day of peace,” he added, as Erdogan’s wife, Emine, teared up with joy.

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