Turkey, an erstwhile U.S. ally long hailed as a bastion of secular democracy in the Muslim world, could be spiraling towards all-out civil war and potential dissolution as conflicts between Turkish security forces and Kurds and other ethnic minorities continue to escalate. These conflicts have been exacerbated by the catastrophic war in neighboring Syria, which has created a refugee crisis in Turkey, expanded Turkey’s bloody campaign against Kurds into Iraq and Syria, and pushed Turkish officials into a convenient collusion with ISIS.
The lurch toward a more Islamist, autocratic posture by President Recep Tayyib Erdogan has long worried regional and western observers, particularly his strong curbs on political speech and active political repression of the Kurds. That policy has taken a bloody turn with the repeated bombing of Syrian and Iraqi Kurds–both of whom have been anti-ISIS bulwarks–and, since July 2015, escalating crackdowns at home. The murder in November of Tahir Elci, a leading Kurdish human rights advocate and president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association in southeastern Turkey has dramatically increased tensions and violence inside Turkey and put the Kurdish issue—seemingly settled only a few years ago—back on the agenda. The killing, which Human Rights Watch called an “assassination”, demonstrated to the world how out of control the province has become.
Turkey has other problems to contend with. The Russians—playing an increasingly important role in the region—have long maintained that Turkey is receiving oil from ISIS, through official complicity, illicit criminal networks, or some combination. The Associated Press corroborated Russia’s account by stating that upwards of 30,000 barrels of oil are being extracted each day by ISIS from Syria, much of which ends up in Turkey. While Erdogan and his ruling party have not been sanctioned by the U.S. or anyone in the west for that matter, one can only conclude that this willful blindness means that the U.S. is fearful for Erdogan’s political stability not to mention Russia’s ascendant position in the region.
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