The problem with Turkey's PKK peace process

Solving the Kurdish problem is crucial as many see it as the "mother of all problems in Turkey."

al-monitor Flags with the portrait of Abdullah Ocalan, one of the founding members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), are carried during a protest by Kurds against Islamic State militant attacks on Syrian Kurds, in Istanbul, Sept. 21, 2014.  Photo by REUTERS/Murad Sezer.

Topics covered

turkey, peace talks, pkk, kurds, kandil, bdp, abdullah ocalan

Nov 10, 2014

There is definitely a blockage in the solution process with Kurds. If we are sincere and want the solution process to become a lasting solution to the Kurdish problem that is the "mother of all problems in Turkey," then we have to identify the causes of the delays and face the realities. Here are the realities I think we have to deal with:

There is not much difference between [Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah] Ocalan and the PKK/HDP [People's Democracy Party]: From the outset, government circles have insisted that there were differences between Imrali prison [where Ocalan is serving a life sentence] and other wings of the Kurdish political movement. There were even claims that the PKK/BDP/HDP, prompted by external forces, were plotting against their leader [the BDP is the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party]. But we understood from the remarks of Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan and from what Murat Yetkin wrote in the daily Radikal that other wings were acting within parameters decided from Imrali. Therefore it is no longer possible to employ the line used every time there is a crisis that “we will talk to Ocalan and he will persuade the others.” The person to be persuaded is Ocalan himself.

Perceptions about foreign forces have been misjudged. The government, taking its lessons from the Oslo process and believing that Kandil [PKK military headquarters in northern Iraq] is subject to the influence of foreign forces, decided to place Ocalan at the center of the solution process. This was actually a correct strategy. But when the process was slowed down for political reasons and with the Kurdish problem rapidly becoming a regional — and even global — one with the unforeseen emergence of the Islamic State phenomenon, this strategy lost its functionality. The call of KCK [Kurdistan Communities Union] co-chair Cemal Bayik for third parties to supervise the solution process, and mentioning the US in that context, were significant. If we acknowledge that Bayik wouldn’t speak without Ocalan’s blessing, we may have to accept that the opportunity for solving our Kurdish problem without the interference of outsiders is evaporating.

The PKK does not intend to disarm: The success of the solution process needs disarming of the PKK more than just a cease-fire. Guns had long lost their legitimacy as a means of demanding rights. But with the Islamic State directly targeting Kurds in Iraq and Syria, guns re-emerged as a necessity. The PKK is trying to benefit from this legitimacy provided by the Islamic State in other venues as well. It is obvious that the Islamic State threat has not legitimized the attacks that occurred Oct. 6-7 against backers of [Turkish] Hezbollah Kurds, the killings of soldiers out of uniform in Yuksekova and Diyarbakir and executing a young man in Cizre on charges of being an agent. Apart from the Cizre execution, the PKK did not openly claim responsibility for the other attacks, but also did not clearly deny them. As long as the Kurdish political movement continues to consider violence as an instrument of politics in Turkey, it will not be easy to achieve peace and therefore a solution.

The government‘s problem of developing policy: It was mainly the efforts of the bureaucrats, especially the National Intelligence Organization [MIT], that enabled the process to come this far. After that phase their burden had to be taken over by politicians. That didn’t happen. Although government spokesmen constantly voice their faith in and attachment to the solution process, there are still serous blockages because of the government's inability to make the prerequisite political moves to accompany the developments. It seems that this is the way it will limp along until the coming general elections. The situation may change if there are extraordinary developments in the region, but by then it may be too late. 

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