Sweden’s bloodstained deal with Turkey

The Swedish government passed the entry exam to join NATO by promising to help Turkish imperialism drown the Kurdish struggle in blood.

As late as November, the ruling Social Democrats wanted to “deepen its collaboration with [the] PYD [the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK] ” because they “support the work of the Self-Rule in northeastern Syria for democracy and respect for human rights”. The Social Democratic foreign minister Ann Linde had this to say three years ago:

“Sweden is deeply grateful for the sacrifices that Kurds and minorities in the region have made in the Struggle against Daesh… Sweden condemns the illegal Turkish attack on northeastern Syria… [the Kurds] have carried a big load and it is important that they now get support from the rest of the world.”

At the website of the Social Democrats, one can still read: “That freedom fighters who have fought with or sympathise with YPG/YPJ [Kurdish self-defence organisations] or PYD are suddenly classified by some state actors as terrorists in unacceptable.” Now the Social Democrats have done exactly that which they in November called “unacceptable” and are treating PYD as a terrorist organisation.

In exchange for Turkey dropping its veto over Sweden’s NATO membership, they - along with Finland, who are also seeking NATO membership - will give Turkey “full support against threats to its national security”, according to a trilateral memorandum. To avoid misunderstanding, it is clarified that this is about the Kurds: “To that effect, Finland and Sweden will not provide support to YPG/PYD”. The former Social Democratic minister Pierre Schori summed up the content of the agreement as a “grand slam for [Turkish President] Erdogan, a shame for Sweden and betrayal of the Kurds.”


The hypocrisy of Swedish capitalism is on full display. The freedom fighters of yesterday are today made out to be terrorists. For the imperialists, the liberation struggle of small nations has always just been small change, which they happily exchange whenever it happens to be convenient.

Erdogan 2022 Image Presidency of Republic of UkraineSweden's support for Turkish imperialism is concretised in promises which will actively help Erdogan to persecute his political opponents / Image: Presidency of Republic of Ukraine

The full support of Sweden and Finland for Turkish imperialism is concretised in these promises:

  • “Establish a joint, structured dialogue and cooperation mechanism at all levels of government, including between law enforcement and intelligence agencies”.
  • Sharpen the undemocratic so-called “anti-terrorism” laws.
  • Prohibit recruitment to and financing of PKK and other so-called “terrorist organisations” as well as “individuals in affiliated and inspired groups or networks linked to these terrorist organisations”.
  • Finland and Sweden will address Turkey’s “pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly”.
  • Start exporting arms to Turkey.

This means that they will actively help Erdogan to persecute his political opponents by providing information. If they seek refuge in Sweden, they shall be prohibited or in other ways restricted from continuing their political work. The parts dealing with “financing and recruitment” are so vague that they could encompass practically any organisation that is opposed to Erdogan’s rule.

The Economist, an organ for the British ruling class, calls the deal a “victory for Erdogan” and says: “Given Mr. Erdogan’s drift towards autocracy, and his tendency to describe all opponents as terrorists, many will worry that the Nordic states risk weakening their commitment to human rights and asylum for political dissidents.”

Initially, Erdogan had a list of 33 individuals from Sweden and 12 from Finland that he was seeking to get extradited, according to Turkish newspaper ​​Hürriyet. On Thursday, however, Erdogan was instead claiming that Sweden had promised to extradite as many as 73 individuals, and that he would refuse to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership unless this promise was fulfilled. This places a question mark over the entire deal.

It is one thing for the Swedish government to accept a deal, the full repressive meaning of which will be known only later, and a completely different one to accept handing a large number of people over up front. They clearly have a need to present this sordid exchange as being done according to Swedish laws, rules, regulations, and so on. If they meet Erdogan’s demands, all this red tape will be openly exposed as nothing but a contemptible sham.

After Turkey bought a Russian S-400 air defence system, the US retaliated by barring them from access to the modern F-35 fighter. Erdogan has therefore been trying to secure a deal to instead buy 40 of a modernised version of the older F-16 jet fighters from the US, as well as modernising kits for an additional 80 fighter jets. It is clear that Sweden's and Finland's application to join NATO gave Erdogan bargaining power in this regard. It is not surprising then, that the Biden administration accepted Turkey's request one day after the deal was reached between Turkey, Sweden and Finland.

With regards to arbitrary extraditions, the Swedish state hardly had a spotless record. Swedish law does prohibit extraditing people for political crimes, but it is possible to extradite them for terrorism. Backed by a deal that paints any “group or network” with any sort of connection to the PKK as terrorists – and a more repressive Swedish anti-terror law – it should be a small matter for the authorities to change their wording accordingly.

It is also illegal to extradite people if they are at risk of torture. This is even easier to ignore. In 2001, the Social Democratic government extradited Mohammad Alzery and Ahmed Agiza despite the risk that they would face torture. They had received so-called diplomatic guarantees from Egypt that they would not be subjected to torture. Once extradited, they were in fact subjected to torture.

Such “diplomatic guarantees” are a loop-hole in the law that the government can easily exploit as it suits them. For the Erdogan regime, it would be the easiest thing in the world to do just like Egypt.

Oppose NATO membership! Oppose deal with Erdogan!

The excuse to join NATO was that Sweden should stand up against the “oppressive”, “autocratic”, “ruthless” (and so on) regime in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. The entry fee was a far-reaching collaboration with an equally oppressive, autocratic, and ruthless regime in Turkey, that they will now provide with support in their one-sided war against and age-old terror and oppression of the Kurds.

Kurdish PKK Guerillas Image KurdishstruggleBoth Erdogan and other Turkish officials have been speaking of “clearing” the PKK out for several months. These preparations for war are now being firmly assisted by Sweden with this deal / Image: Kurdishstruggle

For the Swedish imperialists there is, of course, one crucial difference. They have a strong economic interest in countering Russia to benefit Swedish companies in the Baltics. They will celebrate the NATO decision this weekend, which will increase its military presence in the Baltic Sea region and in countries bordering Russia. But they have absolutely no economic interest in helping the Kurds, who they willingly sacrifice in exchange for strengthening their own international position.

The deal with Erdogan is not an exception from the point of view of Swedish imperialism, but fully in line with their aims: to win more markets, increase their profits and continue exploiting other people. This is also what the entire NATO alliance is fundamentally all about.

It is particularly shameful that this deal comes at a time when Erdogan is preparing another military offensive against the Kurds in Northern Syria. Both Erdogan and other Turkish officials have been speaking of “clearing” the PKK out for several months. These preparations for war are now being firmly assisted by Sweden with this deal. Not least, the Turkish military will find use for the Swedish arms, which they once again are willing to export.

We extend our full solidarity to those Kurds, Turks and others that will now be wrongfully imprisoned, tortured and killed with the help of the Swedish state.

We appeal to the left and the labour movement – including those Social Democrats that oppose the policies of the leadership – to immediately organise protests against the deal with Erdogan, as well as NATO membership.

The working class has nothing to gain from joining NATO. It will only strengthen our shackles and lead to more class division. We will not be more secure. On the contrary, Sweden is getting thrown into an escalating conflict between the great powers where peace and safety will always give way for the cynical hunt for profits. The only way forward is internationalism, class struggle – and socialist revolution to destroy the imperialist monster once and for all.

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