Thousands of Turkish troops have launched an attack into northern Iraq in a dangerous escalation of their war against Kurdish separatists.
The Turkish military have destroyed bridges, fired salvos of artillery into the villages in the border region and threatened to attack any home that gives refuge to fleeing PKK fighters.
Warplanes have been launching daily attacks on northern Iraq since Turkey began a military campaign against PKK militants in December.
Now the troops are reported to have pushed 15 miles into northern Iraq and to have seized PKK forward bases, confirming fears that they plan to establish a “buffer zone” along the border.
This has raised fears that future incursions will extend deeper into Iraqi Kurdish areas.
The PKK emerged out of a struggle against the repression of Turkey’s 20 million Kurds. The organisation has made repeated calls for a ceasefire, but these have been rejected by Turkey. Now the military want to crush the militants.
The spread of the war to the north is a mark of the growing instability created by the US invasion of Iraq. The Kurdish regions had been the most stable, with northern Iraq becoming economically dependent on Turkey.
The US promised Turkey that it would crush the PKK, but it feared this would alienate Kurdish parties who are key allies of the occupation forces.
And Iraq’s Turkoman minority, who are ethnic Turks, have been the target of sectarian cleansing by the US-backed Kurdish parties as they attempt to seize control over the oil rich city of Kirkuk.
Turkey’s Kurdish population has reacted to the invasion with mass demonstrations. One witness told Socialist Worker, “There is now a heavy police presence in many Kurdish areas in Istanbul and other big cities and the possibility of further clashes is high.”
“Police used clubs and tear gas this Monday to disperse mass demonstrations in the city of Diyarbakir in the east of the country. One protester died after being hit by an armoured car.”
Stop Turkey’s invasion, protest 12 noon, Sunday 2 March, Dalston Junction, Hackney, London E8. Called by Turkish and Kurdish organisations. Backed by Stop the War Coalition