How NATO Is Supporting a Pan-Turkic State
Energy reserves free of Russian and Chinese control have led to the destruction of religious and ethnic minorities
On the eve of April 18th, Turkey announced “Operation Claw-Lock,” an invasion of the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq. This operation carried out aerial and on-ground attacks in the Avashin, Metina, Zap, Kurazharo, and Barwari Bala areas. This analysis will examine the following: the Turkish state’s discourse surrounding the operation, on-ground civilian interviews, Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies towards ethnic and religious minorities, expert opinions on the region, NATO’s interests, and the consequential human rights violations that follow.
The Turkish Defense Ministry claims this operation intends to neutralize a series of terrorist caves and tunnels.1 Hulusi Akar, a former chief of staff in Turkey, claimed that the operations “would continue until the last terrorist was dead” but assured listeners that civilians and the region’s cultural heritage would not be harmed.2
However, after speaking to witnesses on the ground, Interviews contradict what is being reported by the Turkish state and affiliates. Kamaran Osman, a human rights officer for Community Peacemaker Teams in Iraqi Kurdistan, witnessed the Turkish invasion unravel. He states, “We saw it ourselves; Operation Claw Lock directly targeted civilian houses. We saw 11 civilian houses destroyed. They have also targeted mosques, churches, and even a hospital.”3 According to reports, this operation seeks to target civilians, not terrorism. Kamaran describes what he witnessed “Turkish soldiers came from mountains and told people living in the villages that they must leave or die. They said anyone remaining here will be assumed as PKK guerillas, and we will attack them.” He continued, “People who live in the area are dependent on their land for income. They harvest vegetables in the mountains, and now they are no longer able to provide for themselves because the Turkish military will kill them.” I asked if he witnessed any displacement. Osman continued, “More than 600 villages are under threat of being displaced. Hezankey, a Christian Assyrian village in the district of Akre, had 50 families, but as a result of the operations, only one family remains.” I also spoke to Pari Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Yazidi Foundation, who led me to the foundation’s statement regarding the Turkish airstrikes.4 “We are witnessing how the lives of peaceful citizens of a sovereign nation can be destroyed for political power and geographic land gains.”
Operation Claw-Lock is not an isolated incident; Turkey’s historical actions reveal more insight into the NATO Army’s long desires for expansion, power, and consequential human rights violations.
On October 17th, 2019, Turkey used white phosphorus against civilians, a chemical weapon banned by the Geneva convention, in the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn during Operation Peace Spring.5 Mohammed Hamid, a 13-year-old Kurdish boy who endured severe burns from the attacks, is a witness.6 Prior to invading and using banned chemical weapons against civilians in North-Eastern Syria, Turkey occupied and ethnically cleansed the Kurdish city of Afrin, thereby forcefully removing the inhabitants.7 Turkey has entirely annexed the Northern corridor of Syria now, effectively expanding its power over sovereign nations.8 Operation Claw Lock is an extension of previous efforts launched in Syria to “eradicate terrorism” across the border in Iraq.
Additionally, Turkey sold drones, rocket launchers, and ammunition to Azerbaijan to target Armenian civilians in Artsakh; Turkish generals left Turkish grounds to help lead operations.9 Access to oil and gas was also cut off to 100,000 Armenian civilians in Artsakh.10 Despite the absence of “terrorists” in Armenia, Turkey continued its pattern of ethnic cleansing and the destruction of landmarks, as we are witnessing now in the Kurdistan region.
This has left many residents in distress as there remains a pressing existential threat of ongoing violence from Turkey and the ruling elite of the KRG. According to the Ezidi Press, Turkish drones have also assassinated YBS leaders.11 Members of YBS are survivors of the Ezidi Genocide who defended themselves against ISIS when Iraqi and KRG forces abandoned them in Sinjar. Osman described, “Turkey has been using Bayraktar TB2 drones to fly over the Badinan area, people are very scared of being attacked by the drone. Many schools have shut down; when students hear a door shut, they think it is the sound of more drones targeting them again.”
Nonetheless, Turkish media outlets and politicians reinforce that this operation is conducted to defeat terrorism. However, it is no secret that Turkey openly supported ISIS throughout the Syrian civil war.12 NATO’s largest army was a massive factor in ISIS’s success in Syria. According to Foreign Policy, in 2013 alone, an estimated 30,000 militants effectively used Turkish soil and public transportation to get through to Syria and Iraq.13 Turkey was a jihadi highway and safe space for fighters to join the Islamic state.
A closer look at domestic Turkish policies will reveal how the nation behaves towards ethnic and religious minorities. Speaking the mere Kurdish language warrants a jail sentence. A university student was given seven years of jail time for whistling in Kurdish on campus grounds in Turkey.14 Moreover, juvenile detention centers, where many young Kurdish children are detained for speaking their language or "illegal assembly," have been continuously sexually assaulted by Turkish guards in prison.15 Former Turkish Minister of Justice himself defined Turkey as the "freest country in the world and added 'I believe that the Turk must be the only lord, the only master of this country.16 Those not of pure Turkish stock can only have one right in this country, the right to be servants and slaves." Racist and nationalistic sentiments like this are deeply embedded within the fabric of Turkish societies and are further reinforced through their foreign policy.
Rosa Burc, Ph.D., Political Scientist, offered insight into the current operation. “What Turkey is doing with these operations cannot be framed as what they claim to be an anti-terror war. You have to read these assaults in two ways; first, the continuation of the anti-Kurdish policies that suppress any kind of articulation of autonomy, and expression of the Kurdish identity inside and beyond Turkish nation-state borders. Second, it is an appeal to become the dominant power in the region. These attacks must also be read hand in hand with Turkey’s role in Artsakh, Armenia, showing how Turkey has been developing an aggressive [colonial] foreign policy.”17
Burc continues, “While Russia is rightly condemned for its invasion of Ukraine, Turkey carries the same acts against Kurds and other minorities in Northern Syria, Armenia and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Instead of other foreign powers condemning Turkey, they have supported the Turkish nation state’s violent acts of aggression through arms deals and the silence of criticism.” This ultimately reveals the significant impact Turkey holds for its partners like the US and NATO, who seemingly ignore the violent human rights abuses of Kurdish, Yazidi, Assyrian, Armenian, and other civilians to advance their interests in oil and resources. Although it would necessitate the cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities, a Pan-Turkic manifesto would grant partners like the US and NATO unlimited access to energy reserves and oil pipelines free of Russian and Chinese control. This offers a grotesque, yet realistic contention as to why the West has largely remained silent about the atrocities partaking in the region. The intentions to advance resources for NATO is clear following KRG’s PM Barzani’s visit to the UK, who vowed to provide access to gas and increase British investments in the region shortly after meeting with the Turkish president prior to the invasion.18 Turkey’s invasions and NATO’s interests in the area necessitate the ethnic cleansing and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in the region.
Ministry, T. D. (2022, April 22). 42 PKK terrorists neutralised during Türkiye's Claw-Lock operation, which continues in northern Iraq. TRT World News. Retrieved from
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Wilkofsky, Dan, et al. “Turkish-Backed Rebels Leave Trail of Abuse, Criminality in Syria’s Afrin - Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East.” Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East, Al-Monitor, 22 July 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/07/turkish-backed-rebels-leave-trail-abuse-and-criminality-syrias-afrin.
Sassounian, Harut. “Turkish Generals Led War on Artsakh. This Was a Turkish, Not Azeri, Victory.” The Armenian Weekly, https://www.facebook.com/ArmenianWeekly/, 29 Dec. 2020, https://armenianweekly.com/2020/12/28/turkish-generals-led-war-on-artsakh-this-was-a-turkish-not-azeri-victory/.
Avedian, Lillian. “‘Humanitarian Terrorism’ in Artsakh, Population Deprived of Gas Supply Again.” The Armenian Weekly, https://www.facebook.com/ArmenianWeekly/, 23 Mar. 2022, https://armenianweekly.com/2022/03/23/humanitarian-terrorism-in-artsakh-population-deprived-of-gas-supply-again/.
Zaman, Amberin. “Turkish Airstrikes Claim Yazidi Lives in Iraq’s Sinjar - Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East.” Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East, 18 Aug. 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/08/turkish-airstrikes-claim-yazidi-lives-iraqs-sinjar.
Tax, Meredith. “Turkey Helps ISIS Attack Rojava | The Nation.” The Nation, https://www.facebook.com/TheNationMagazine, 1 Feb. 2022, https://www.thenation.com/article/world/turkey-isis-rojava-prisoners/.
Yayla, Ahmet S., and Colin P. Clarke. “Turkey’s Double ISIS Standard – Foreign Policy.” Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy, 12 Apr. 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/04/12/turkeys-double-isis-standard/.
For Freedom, Stockholm Center. “Turkish Prosecutor Requests 7-Year Sentence for Kurdish University Student over Whistling Kurdish Song - Stockholm Center for Freedom.” Stockholm Center for Freedom, https://www.facebook.com/stockholmcf/, 20 Feb. 2018, https://stockholmcf.org/turkish-prosecutor-requests-7-year-sentence-for-kurdish-university-student-over-whistling-kurdish-song/.
Jones, Dorian. “Juvenile Detention Guards Sexually Abusing Minority Children in Turkey - The Atlantic.” The Atlantic, The Atlantic, 28 Mar. 2012, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/juvenile-detention-guards-sexually-abusing-minority-children-in-turkey/255102/.
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Ghafuri, Lawk. “PM @masrour_barzani Finalized His Visit to Turkey This Evening, and Landed in London Today to Meet with the PM @BorisJohnson to Discuss Bilateral Ties between #Kurdistan Region & UK, Including Trade, Gas, and Further British Investment in the Kurdistan.” Twitter, Twitter, 18 Apr. 2022,