As Turkey’s peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) grinded to a comprehensive halt with the resumption of deadly violence in July 2015, Ankara has made a crucial error by shutting the “Kurdish opening”.
Describing the Kurdish issue as a “terrorism” problem merely scratches the surface and opens the door to more violence.
The truce between the PKK and Turkey that largely held for 2.5 years may be shattered, but can any side really argue they have benefited or have the upper hand from the new status quo?
After a recent bombing in Diyarbakir claimed by the PKK, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed that the government will not stop until every street and home in southeast of Turkey finds peace and security. Davutoglu also previously pledged that militants will be “wiped out from the mountains.”
But if there were a military solution to the conflict, would it really have taken one of the most formidable armies in the world over three decades and billions of dollars to achieve?
In reality, tying the PKK noose around the Kurdish problem has narrowed the real issue. The majority of Kurds feel stuck by years of harsh government policies and militant tactics.
There is also fuel for hatred and animosity from both sides. With every death come new motivations to vengeance and a new score to settle, each of which inaugurates a ritual of washing blood with blood that might take decades to end.
The punitive curfews imposed, such as those in Cizre, invariably kill more hope amongst civilians than any number of rebels. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently claimed that over 5,000 PKK rebels had been killed or injured since last July. Some analysts had put the PKK force at about the same figure, yet where is the victory for Ankara?
As so many deep historical conflicts in the Middle East have shown, a vicious cycle of bloodshed has no restriction in supply for those willing to sacrifice for their cause.
The Kurdish south east of Turkey desperately needs investment and an escape from the shadows of the rest of Turkey. Years of impoverishment and suffering has taken immense toll on the region. High unemployment, especially among the youth, perpetuates disenchantment and bitterness.
At a very sensitive juncture for the Middle East and Turkey, simply focusing on the PKK in the war on terror avoids the real issue – combating the Islamic State (IS).
As Syrian Kurds press on towards increasing autonomy, Turkey has little choice but to accept regional realities—much in the same way that autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan was heavily feared but eventually embraced by Ankara leading to strategic ties.
It would be unwise to suggest this can happen with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) overnight, but Turkey must separate its concepts of terrorism and Kurdish nationalism. Not every Kurdish nationalist is a terrorist and not every Kurd is a PKK sympathizer.
Neither the Kurds nor Turks are about to disappear from the regional scene. One way or another, the future of both nations is intrinsically linked. Turkey must do what it can to avoid continuous polarization of the Kurds. If the southeast starts to flourish and feel like real partners to Turkey, the rebel cause will swiftly lose its appeal.
First Published: Kurdish Globe
Other Publication Sources: Various Misc