Turkey Pulse

Kurdish movement worries crisis in Turkey might undo the 'peace process'

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Article Summary
The Kurdish movement is giving conditional support to Erdogan and his party, which are experiencing a serious legitimacy crisis as a result of corruption and bribery allegations.

As a result of its conflict with the Gulen Cemaat [faith movement], Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule has to cope with severe corruption and bribery allegations. The first victim of the chain of political reactions triggered by this development has been the rule of law in Turkey, where law and democracy have suffered serious mutilation.

Internal squabbles in Turkey have become a crisis of state. The second victim of this crisis could be the "process" the government launched at the end of 2012 with the Kurdish movement and its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

I put the word “process” in quotation marks because reciprocal steps required for the “peace and solution process” were not taken; since fall, it has become a "state of non-hostility” instead of an authentic process.

Nevertheless, for Turkey, which since 1984 has lost close to 50,000 people — Kurds, Turks, soldiers, civilians and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants — this “state of non-hostility” is better than nothing.

The minimal requisite for this “non-hostility” to once again become an active “peace process’’ when the conditions are ripe is for the two sides — which have both declared their ambitions for a solution — to preserve their will, strength and legitimacy.

The Kurdish movement, which after a long struggle finally found a counterpart, is quite anxious about the extremely difficult position Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP government have found themselves in as a result of the anti-corruption operation that broke into the open Dec. 17.

The Kurdish movement thought it had found an interlocutor to the solution; however, the legitimacy of the interlocutor's leadership and party has been gravely impaired by corruption and bribery allegations that forced four key ministers out of their posts.

There are two possibilities:   

The first is for Erdogan to be forced to give up political power as a result of this extremely corrosive struggle and for the AKP to be left without Erdogan, or for both AKP and Erdogan to give up their power together.

The second is for Erdogan and the AKP to retain power despite their colossal legitimacy losses while Turkey becomes a “black hole” state totally bereft of law alongside the collapse of the functionality of its institutions.

Both possibilities would make reactivation of the “solution process” impossible.

The Kurdish movement for the time being has no alternative other than AKP as an address for a solution. The opposition is not ideologically or politically ready to undertake such a mission, not that the AKP itself has the desire and strength to sustain solution efforts. But in Turkey we have a proverb that says “There is hope as long as there is sign of life.”

Perhaps this is why the Kurdish movement appears to be determined to do whatever needed to prolong the lifespan of this partner. The spokesmen for the Kurdish movement, led by Ocalan, have been using common narratives and expressions with the AKP while describing the situation Turkey reached Dec. 17, such as labeling the anti-corruption operation as an “international conspiracy” and a "coup” and defining the penetration of state bodies by the Gulen Cemaat as a “parallel state.’’

Idris Baluken, a member of parliament from the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party [BDP] who on Jan. 11 visited Ocalan in the special prison he is held at Imrali Island, said that according to Ocalan, Dec. 17 was a “coup attempt launched by the parallel state against the process.”

The co-chairman of the BDP, Selahattin Demirtas, in his conversations with a group of columnists in Istanbul on Jan. 12, conveyed Ocalan’s analysis of the current situation: “Ocalan has always been referring to the parallel state issue in his Imrali meetings. He kept saying, 'I have been warning for months but they are not listening.' Ocalan says, 'These people don’t want a solution and are bound to cause problems for our solution process. The government might reach such a point that unless it takes it seriously, it might be wiped out by the parallel state in one day.' Ocalan says the Cemaat has taken over the state but this is actually an international scheme. His explanation is based on the analysis that this is a coup and they will topple the government. At the moment, the government is confronted by an international scheme.”

According to Demirtas, Ocalan’s analysis of the actors of this “international scheme” and their interactions goes like this: “All the schemes are planned by the capital lobby in London, the Chicago-based Jewish lobby and an academy in Utah. Cemaat’s extensions within the state are willingly assisting.”

Demirtas quoted Ocalan saying that he has to take this affair seriously to safeguard the process.

On Jan. 9, a view similar to Ocalan's was voiced by Bese Hozat, co-president of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the highest political structure of the Kurdish movement, who said: “In Turkey, in addition to the official state, there are parallel states. For example, Fethullah Gulen's Cemaat is a parallel state. The Israeli lobby, nationalist Armenians and Greek lobbies are parallel states. These parallel states have serious common interests.’’

Such conspiratorial and paranoid assessments, which obviously are not based on any proven findings, nevertheless indicate grave oscillations in Kurdish thinking; they show that the intent of the Kurdish movement that is not on good terms with the Gulen Cemaat is to offer support to Erdogan. But if Dec. 17 really represents a “parallel state” coup by international organizations to topple a democratically elected government, shouldn’t the Kurdish movement declare these corruption and bribery investigations illegitimate and seek their removal from the agenda?

But BDP leaders are not thinking along those lines. They claim to draw a thick line between the coup attempt and AKP corruption. They are refraining from supporting AKP interference with the judiciary to block the corruption investigations because they fear it may backfire on their own legitimacy. This is what Demirtas said on corruption and bribery charges: "The parallel state found a legitimate and justified opening to intervene in politics. It exposed AKP ranks involved in theft. It couldn’t have found a more effective way to affect public opinion. Public opinion is more sensitive to charges of theft rather than authoritarianism and oppression. On the one hand you have the thieves, on the other hand the police. Theft is not acceptable. At this point we have to pray for the Cemaat to conclude its attacks because the public conscience needs relief. We cannot continue with the burden of thefts. We as the BDP are not saying that we should ignore these thefts for Erdogan to survive. If the prime minister is ignoring theft, then he should go. We are against corruption in principle. We are not saying the solution will collapse if we keep discussing corruption.”

Demirtas concluded: "The Dec. 17 operation is an opportunity to terminate the parallel state and make progress with the solution. But AKP’s ability to achieve this is feeble. AKP has to give up interfering with the judiciary over thefts. It has to bolster democracy and reactivate a new constitutional process. This is how to have a ring of democracy around you to assure your survival while you are fighting with the parallel state.  AKP will survive if it does all this and the prime minister is not implicated in thefts.”

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Found in: turkish politics, turkey-pkk talks, turkey, recep tayyip erdogan, pkk, gulen movement, corruption

Kadri Gursel is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. His main focuses are Turkish foreign policy, international affairs, press freedom, Turkey’s Kurdish question, as well as Turkey’s evolving political Islam and its national and regional impacts. He wrote a column for the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between September 2018 and May 2016 and for daily Milliyet between 2007 and July 2015. Gursel also worked for the Agence France-Presse for nearly five years, between 1993-1997. While at the AFP, he was kidnapped by Kurdish militants in 1995. He recounted his misadventures at the hands of the PKK in his book titled “Dağdakiler” (Those of the Mountains) published in 1996. Twitter: @KadriGursel

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