While conservative and left-wing Turks are up in arms with the revelations of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan’s proposals to end the terrorist upheaval in eastern and southeastern Turkey. his own people among the militant leadership and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) are also extremely uneasy that their own demands have been downgraded and that a final solution may well amount to a submission to the Turks.
On Feb. 23, three parliamentarians from the BDP — Pelvin Buldan, the chief whip of the party, as well as Sirri Sureyya Onder and Altan Tan — visited Ocalan at the prison island of Imrali where the PKK leader is serving a life sentence for treason and membership in a terrorist organization. Two Turkish officials from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) accompanied the deputies to the island, and at least one was present at the meeting between the PKK leader and the deputies.
The visit was seen as a part of the ongoing peace process between Turkey and the militant Kurds. Ocalan presented a series of ideas that would set the course for a solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem. According to official sources close to the meeting, Ocalan had some rather harsh words for the PKK and BDP, who he felt should set a more positive and conciliatory tone to the peace efforts and refrain from any acts or statements that would jeopardize the current positive mood in Turkey.
The BDP deputies reportedly had two reports of their own to present to Ocalan on the peace process, but the PKK leader brushed them aside. Ocalan told them he had three letters: one for the BDP, one for the PKK militant leaders holed up in the mountains of Turkey and northern Iraq, and one for the PKK leadership in Europe. He said he would not give the letters to the deputies on the island but that he would hand the letters to Turkish authorities to be presented to the BDP in Ankara. He said he expected a reply to the letters in ten days. This was seen as a form of reprimand and a message saying, “I deal with the state, I am the boss and you (the PKK people and the BDP) do things through me.”
The letters arrived in Ankara on Feb. 26 and were handed to the BDP officials. The BDP in return sent the letters through its own people to the PKK leaders in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq and the PKK leadership in Europe.
After some speculation that the PKK leaders at Kandil were unhappy with the current state of affairs and angry that Turkish forces were bombing the area despite the current peace efforts, a delegation comprised of BDP deputies traveled to the mountains with the help of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and presented Ocalan's letter to PKK officials Murat Karayilan, Sabri Ok and Duran Kalkan. They then took a reply letter for Ocalan and went back to Suleimaniyeh.
Initially the BDP leaders as well as the PKK militants were rather uneasy with Ocalan’s proposals, which did not mention the creation of a Turkish-Kurdish federation, Kurdish autonomy or even official recognition of education in the Kurdish language.
On Feb. 28, mass circulation daily Milliyet published what it claimed were excerpts of the minutes of the meeting between Ocalan and the BDP team. The long excerpts were regarded as Ocalan’s views on what a solution should embrace and a tentative “solution calendar.”
The excerpts suggested that Ocalan is at odds with the PKK leadership holed up in the Kandil mountains on several issues. He wants the withdrawal of the PKK militants from their hideouts inside Turkey to begin with the Nowruz celebrations on Mar. 21 and end by August. The PKK leaders reportedly feel this is impossible and that it will take them two years to complete a total withdrawal.
The Erdogan government is struggling to draft a new constitution for Turkey. The PKK leaders also want this constitution to mention the Kurds but Ocalan opposes this, saying there should be no ethnicity in the constitution. The Erdogan government is also working to weed out the mention of “Turks” in the current constitution and underline “citizenship of the Turkish Republic.”
However, the fact that the excerpts themselves were leaked to the press has created an uproar in Turkey where the extremist Kurds who are against the current “peace process” are being accused of sabotaging hopes of a solution. The excerpts are quite extensive and were reportedly the product of the notes taken by two BDP deputies: Pelvin Buldan and AltanTan. A Turkish intelligence official who was present at the meeting between Ocalan and the deputies reportedly also took notes. Al-Monitor learned from Turkish justice officials that on such occasions Turkish authorities also take voice recordings.
Some of the views voiced by Ocalan created furor among opposition Turks, who accused the government of selling out. Ocalan had hinted that a solution will set him free, and demanded parliamentary decision for the PKK withdrawal. He even approved the creation of a presidential system wherein Tayyip Erdogan would become the president. The government reacted by stating that the leakage of the excerpts is an attempt by militants to sabotage the peace process. They likened it to the Oslo process, where Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and some other officials met with the PKK leaders Mustafa Karasu, Sabri Ok and Zubeyr Haydar in 2009 and 2010. That process collapsed when voice recordings of the meetings were leaked on the internet in 2011. At the time, the government was accused of treason and it took an amendment in the criminal code to save Fidan from the hands of prosecutors who were set to jail him for collaborating with terrorists.
Erdogan says the BDP deputies are making a mistake by talking too much about their meeting with Ocalan. Government officials believe the leaks are an attempt by extremist Kurds to create public uproar and thus end current efforts to solve the Kurdish problem.
İlnur Cevik served as editor-in-chief of the Turkish Daily News between 1983 and 2004, which later became the Hurriyet Daily News. He also published the daily The New Anatolian.