Tag Archives: Kurdish Opening

Turkey’s battle against PKK – why washing blood with blood will never see a victor

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

Attitude to Turkish atrocities of the past the real gauge of sentiment in the future

The Kurdish position in Turkey is a far-cry from decades of denial, persecution and second class status but has Turkey comes to terms with its past policies?

The carnival atmosphere last week in Diyarbakir with Kurdistan President Massaud Barzani side-by-side with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and famous Kurdish artists was an unprecedented event.

The theme was one of brotherhood, peace and a prosperous future of co-existence. The mere idea that a Turkish MP would utter the word “Kurdistan” was unthinkable just years ago, let alone by a Prime Minister.

The increasing conciliatory ties and a dose of reality from the Turkish state are welcome and take the Kurdish standing in Turkey to new levels. The reality of a population of over 20 million with a rich history, culture and separate ethnic identity was cynically ignored in Turkey to its detriment.

However, Turkey has a long way to go before national sentiments will truly sway. The Kurds have a bad label, a tainted image in Turkey and seen as the aggressors and overreachers. In 2013, with the Kurds as strategic actors on the Middle Eastern stage and with the Kurdistan Region long established, it speaks volumes when the word Kurdistan stills stirs such nationalist emotion.

The fact of the matter is that until Turkey comes to true terms with its past and its crimes against the Kurds, a new age and a new future based on unity and co-existence will never come to fruition. The account of the conflict is acutely one-sided with the media and state policy playing a strong hand in the psychology of the greater population against the Kurds.

The West of Turkey never had the full picture of the Kurdish issue and state atrocities. The scene of the battle always seemed like a distant, backward, lawless and secluded land, not a land that constitutes such a major part of Turkey.

Without forgiveness and understanding, brotherhood will never arrive. Turkey must at the same time look at its past with a deal of justice, repentance and regret.

Many dark chapters in Turkey’s history where concealed from the public eye. Only recently with some prosecutions and trials in the Kurdish region have of some these tales come to light. The Kurds have resorted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the past, but it is the Turkish justice system that must take ownership and responsibility. Too often perpetrators of state injustices of the best have been sheltered and defended.

Recent trials have focused on the dark days of the 1990’s when the war with the PKK was at its peak. Thousands of villages were burned and destroyed, with millions of Kurds forced to migrate and with thousands killed or disappeared. Some of the horrid accounts were revealed by soldiers themselves.

Yet the acts of the 90’s scratch the surface. Only in 2011 did Erdogan take the bold and unprecedented steps of apologising for the killing of over 13,000 Kurds in Dersim in the 1930’s.

Violent means of achieving your rights should not be condoned and no war is without casualty but the whole Kurdish population was suddenly branded with the PKK or terrorist bush. If one village supported the PKK, it was as if the whole village supported such views.

Furthermore, the state repression of the Kurds goes back decades before the onset of the PKK.

If the Turkish government has genuine intentions to build a new future of brotherhood then the unbalanced view of the Kurdish struggle must be addressed.

The greater Turkish population must understand the crimes that were committed by state forces and the suffering that was inflicted on the Kurdish population.

Whether in Iraq, Syria or Turkey, the attitude to the repressive government policies of the past is an indicator of real sentiment in the future. Has the atmosphere really changed or is just been masked with mere rhetoric and policies that strengthens short-term goals of individuals?

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Death of Kurdish protestor adds fuel to Turkish fire

In last week’s column, the sensitivity of Turkey’s Kurdish peace process and the accompanying democratic initiative was highlighted with a warning that single-bullet can unravel months or years of gains.

The highly unfortunate death of Medeni Yildirim, caught up as protests in Lice near Diyarbakir against the building of a new Turkish military outpost grew violent, is just the kind of spark that can ignite greater strife.

As the recent Arab Spring has highlighted, youths spraying anti-government graffiti, a man setting himself alight or local show of discontent, is all it takes to light the touch paper.

In a similar vein, Turkish anti-government protests have slowly snowballed. The problem with such highly-publicized protests in front of thousands of international cameras is that the government has a small window of opportunity to respond delicately and swiftly. One wrong move, the slightest overreaction or use of force and the smallest of controversial political rhetoric and the situation quickly blossoms into an unmanageable crisis where even if the protests later die down, the government never comes out unscathed.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has enjoyed a decade in power and his achievements, widely acclaimed in Turkey and beyond, are in danger of been eroded.

A year ago, the long disenchanted and marginalized Kurds would have jumped at the opportunity to pour fuel on anti-government protests, a perennial role usually reserved for them. In a twist of irony, the Kurdish south east has been quiet whilst the west of the country has been embroiled in mass protests that have served to polarize and destabilize Turkey.

The Kurdish position is owed to renewed hope and expectation that the Kurdish conflict can be peacefully resolved and that Kurds can finally move away from playing second-fiddle under Turkey’s ultra nationalist foundations.

An encouraging and welcome sign was the protests and outcry that erupted amongst Turks in Istanbul in solidarity with the Kurds over the death of Medeni Yildirim.

The governments violent response in Lice and the growing Kurdish frustration with their lack of impetus in implementing legal steps and reform as part of the peace process, adds more pressure on the government.

The Kurdish south-east has been at its most peaceful in almost 3 decades. Recently, Erdogan was quick to emphasise that the peace process will not be affected by Gezi Park protests, and the two issues have been largely separated.

Managing ever rising expectations is a tough task. Although, many AKP initiatives in resolving the age old Kurdish dilemma were unprecedented, Kurdish expectations have outpaced the piece-meal nature of Turkish concessions.

A stone-throw away lays a prosperous, flourishing and autonomous Kurdistan Region. To the south, even their Syrian brethren are finally rid of the clutches of tyranny.

Why should the long supressed Turkish Kurds measuring such a large segment of society and in a country with EU aspirations and hailed for its democratic principles, continue to settle for less than their legal entitlement?

It is even more ironic that Turks in West of Turkey in living standards, economic conditions and social infrastructure far beyond those of the Kurds complain about the increasing authoritarian nature of Erdogan’s rule and anti-democratic measures.

Imagine the stance of the Kurds who have suffered greatly since the 1920’s under systematic repression, left to endure second class status and lacked at times even the basic of rights.

Perhaps the newfound and much welcome solidarity between Turks and Kurds is a reflection of that irony.

His image may be tarnished, but not all is lost for Erdogan and the AKP, who as much as the protests and media attention would suggest otherwise, still enjoy good support in Turkey and who can still ensure a successful implementation of the peace process.

However, the message is clear, act quickly, decisively and wholeheartedly, before an unstoppable whirlwind engulfs all of Turkey.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc.

The Turkish-Kurdish peace process at a critical juncture

As ever in the Middle East, the concept of destruction can take mere seconds and construction many years. It may take years, decades or even centuries to strike peace, resolve sectarian, ethnic or political rifts or reach consensus whilst a single bullet, bombing or event can quickly lead back to square one.

In the face of this, with the onset of the historic peace process launched at the turn of the year, Turkey has a unique opportunity to finally end its decades-long military conflict with the PKK and build social, political and economic bridges with its long impoverished and disenfranchised Kurdish population.

The latest peace process with the heavy involvement of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was bold, ambitious and commendable but was hardly based on a national consensus. For some Turkish nationalist and secularists who oppose Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it was even deemed the last straw.

More importantly, the peace process is fraught with a great deal of animosity and mistrust between the PKK and the AKP-led government. To make matters worse, the details of the so-called road-map is riddled with a lack of clarity, including its stages or actual steps that will be implemented.

Just what has Ankara agreed with Ocalan and the PKK in peace negotiations, what is the timetable and what concessions will the Turkish government adopt in reality?

The withdrawal of PKK militants in stages that began shortly after Ocalan’s historic Newroz announcement was a welcome move, but uneasy on the how the government will respond to their side of the bargain, the recent statements from Ocalan, BDP leaders and PKK commander Murat Karayılan have been washed with apprehension and warnings.

BDP leaders have continuously pressed the government for implementing legal reform and ‘second phase’ of the process and have hit-out against the looming deadlock. The idea of a 3 month parliamentary recess at a critical juncture in the process hardly soothed sentiments.

Ocalan himself, the real key to this process, a fact that most Turks resent, is growing weary amidst current progress and lack of perceived reciprocation from the government.

At a sensitive time in the Kurdish-Turkish reconciliation comes the heavy public pressure on Erdogan and the widely publicised Gezi park demonstrations. The heavy handed Turkish response and growing public discontent is contributing to an increasing polarisation of Turkey. The mass nature of the protests and ensuing violence was hardly the tonic for the peace-process.

Ironically, the protests and incidents in Istanbul and western Turkey is what the world has been accustomed to seeing in Turkey’s south eastern Kurdish region. However, this time the Kurds stayed largely out of the protests and the Kurdish region has been calm and in positive anticipation.

The Kurds and the Turkish government must remain commitment to the path of peace regardless of provocations. The threat of sabotage is not one-sided, there are elements on both sides that wish to derail peace.

The last six months have been the most peaceful in Turkey in almost 3 decades, yet both sides remain quick to broadcast and highlight any violations.

Ultimately, actions speak louder than words. Turkey has a unique opportunity to end military struggle that has cost billions of dollars but must match rhetoric with firm legal steps.

Each Turkish rocket, weapon or tank, cost millions of dollars yet the same millions that destroys infrastructure and future generations can help build schools, roads and hospitals.

At a sensitive conjecture in the Middle East, there must be a firm realisation in Turkey that peace and true reconciliation between Kurds and Turkey is not an option but the only solution.

Rhetoric from the AKP government has remained somewhat positive, with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay even praising the peaceful nature of the PKK withdrawal. Most elements within the Turkish government realise that there is no turning-back and peace is the only way forward.

However, wishes of a majority can be easily drowned by actions of the minority. The smallest of skirmishes or any Turkish casualties and the war may return greater than ever.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc.

Reality versus ideology – approaching the Kurdish question

The great shifts in the political and strategic landscape of the Middle East was merely accelerated by the Arab Spring, it had begun long before that. The much repressed Kurds who long lived in the shadows of other nations were at the forefront of this new Middle East.

The Kurdish renaissance has begun and while the many historic wrongs against the Kurds cannot be merely rewritten overnight, the Kurds are escaping from the chains of misfortune and are no longer the inferior components of the policies of states they were forcibly subjected to.

With near independence, a booming economy and new strategic and political clout, the Kurdistan Region has grown from strength to strength. With the Arabian earthquake in Syrian, Kurds have broken from decades of shackles with new autonomy. While, expectations of Kurds in Turkey are growing all the time.

Due to nationalist ideologies of respective countries, the Kurds were denied basic rights or even outright existence. The policy of nationalist idealism was an ignorant and elitist approach that such states could adopt due the political climates of yesteryears and the imperial and colonial mentality that plagued the Middle East.

No matter how entrenched your nationalistic ideology, how strong your nationalist propaganda or how wide your assimilation policies may stretch, all that they merely do is mask reality. The reality is that Kurds are a historic nation with an existence that stretches back thousands of years; they are the fourth largest nationality in the Middle East and the largest ethnicity in the world without a state. The crimes committed against them and their misfortunes since been cruelly carved in pieces, warrants volumes rather than a single article.

However, the point is that after policies of repression and decades of denial, this does not mean that the Kurds should suffice on scraps that governments deem suitable to provide and forgo human rights such as self-determination enshrined in UN charters.

The same dilemma of reality versus ideology now threatens to hit Turkey hard. Turkey after years of tough rhetoric and threats finally realised that the Kurdistan Region or the de-facto Kurdish state was not going to go away. It eventually came to terms with  accepting and benefiting from this reality, rather than wasting valuable energy denying it based on historical fears and outdated nationalist ethos.

Turkey and the Kurdistan Region are now natural allies and have a mutual benefit that is growing at a rapid rate. Turkey needs a stable, secular, prosperous and friendly Kurdistan in the turbulent sectarian shifting of the Middle East and Kurdistan Region relies on Turkey for its economic growth, strategic influence and the path to Europe that it provides.

Turkey has now got a unique opportunity to strike long-term peace with the PKK and mend the broken bridges with its Kurdish community. Neither of these tasks is impossible but it needs new endeavour, trust, practical measures and acceptance of inevitabilities.

These inevitabilities entail that the Kurdish question or the PKK dilemma will not go away, but on the contrary as the Kurdish standing increases in the Middle East, so will the power and prominence of Turkey’s Kurds.

Real peace will not be achieved if Turkey believes that is sufficient to simply give Kurds rights that they should not have been deprived of in the first place. Kurds are now looking beyond basic rights and towards real concessions from the Turkish government.

A rewriting of the constitution is a must. The Kurdish status as the second ethnicity in Turkey and their respective rights must be enshrined in law. A prosperous partnership, increased employment and rebuilding projects in the south east will bring the Kurds closer not further from Ankara.

If the Kurdish question can be truly resolved, then this naturally opens new doors for Turkeys EU aspirations. Turkish Kurds can enjoy EU benefits, as well as the Kurdistan Region knowing that it will have the EU on its door step.

The Kurdish question and the PKK question are one and the same. Provide greater rights to Kurds, implement new economic motions in the Kurdish regions and open new doors for the Kurds and support for the PKK will dwindle. The PKK have been the champions of Kurdish rights and their flag bearers, but careful and sincere state overreaches can slowly alienate the PKK.

Kurds are also tired and fed up of fighting, destruction of their areas and the vicious cycle of been stuck between a repressive state and rebel violence.

Overreaches start from above and the latest peace initiative has new momentum and real promise. In this regard, appointments such as Muammer Güler as interior minister, with roots in the Kurdish areas, replacing the unpopular and hawkish Idris Naim Sahin, is just the right tonic.

Turkey’s parliament also passed a symbolic law on Thursday which gave right to Kurds to use their own language in court.

The “Democratic Openings” of previous years stalled as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan become invariably stuck between the past and the future, becoming pinned down by the need to appease nationalist voters and media pressure.

A similar inconsistent or stop-start approach will simply delay the process by a few more years, but Kurds and Turks have no choice but to return to the negotiating table. As the slaying of Sakine Cansiz and other female PKK members showed, there are plenty of sides that seek to destroy peace.

It’s time for Turkey to brave in its actions and break the status quo for the benefit of a new Turkey based on true brotherhood.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources:  Various Misc.

One Man’s Terrorist Another Man’s Freedom Fighter?

As ever, there is a fine line between a terrorist organisation and freedom fighters. As the old saying goes, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Perception and the country in question is key as are geopolitics and the context within which the struggles arise.

Many independent countries have come to the fore as a direct result of military uprisings by the people through rebel movements. Two recent examples are Kosovo and South Sudan, both of which their respective rebel movements formed a key part of achieving their nationalist goals.

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Hamas are other groups who have sought to secure rights and goals through use of force and have tip-toed a fine line between nationalist struggles and terrorist activities. In the case of Hamas, they are in political power, have foreign relations and are even supported by a number of regional counties, yet many have denoted them as a terrorist organisation.

Now the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel movement in Syria, albeit not on the grounds of seeking statehood but nonetheless symbolic freedom akin to other rebel groups, has tremendous international support as did the Libyan rebel movement prior to the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi.

Ask the respective governments that these groups sought to overthrow, and the terms “terrorists mercenaries”, “armed gangs” etc come to mind. Yet ask those who supported the rebel movements, and they will have heralded as revolutionaries, democracy seekers and brave men who stood up to tyranny.

In Kurdistan, the Peshmerga are without a doubt a nationalist icon of the Kurds. Without standing up to the brutality of Saddam, the Kurds would never have achieved their freedom. For the Kurds, the rebel movement was about honour, self-sacrifice and bravery. Yet for Saddam, it was the Kurds and not his barbaric policies that were to blame.

Even the Americans rose up in arms against their British occupiers in the name of freedom as have many other nations throughout history.

The point is depending on what lens the world is viewed, the situation is perceived and treated completely differently and often hypocritically.

Murky definitions

It goes without saying that people often brand terrorism depending on a number of general factors, such as the mode of operation used to seek goals, motivations and characteristics of the group.

An important element here is the popularity and backing of the group. There is certainly difference between a popular national struggle that is waged through a national liberation movement and terrorism that is spurred on by a small minority whose goals is to be recognised, infamy and to generally strike a higher bargain from governments.

Generally speaking nationalist struggle seek to acquire often freedom and rights, while terrorist movements seek to destroy. Yet at the same time, terrorists still try to acquire through destruction, fear and violence.

In any case, the so called credibility and mode of operation of national struggles is a blurred line. How often have we seen bombings of buildings and use of IED’s and hit and run tactics in Syria and Libya, that result in civilian casualties? Rebel movements are no match for the sheer firepower of their adversaries and thus urban guerrilla warfare is almost a necessity.

The key thing is whether there is a purposeful and direct intent to harm the civilian population, which is the case with classic terrorism to gain media coverage and to strike fear. But such terrorist movements often lack true public following and are rarely representative of a large segment of society.

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)

Turkey has fought a bitter war with the PKK that is a little shy of 30 years. Throughout this time, Turkey has been unable to crush the “terrorists” that it has continuously labelled.

Just what are the PKK? A national struggle or a terrorist organisation? Again, it comes back to the argument of perception. Turkey and most of the west in strategic support of its key allies have been quick to blacklist the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

Others have merely jumped on the new “Assad is supporting and arming the PKK” bandwagon.

All this simply masks reality. The PKK have been around for much longer than the current revolutionary era in Middle East and the situation in Turkey is far from new.

This is not to doubt that the PKK has received backing from Assad or Tehran, indeed the PKK has been used and manipulated effectively by even the US and Turkey.

A life of any human being, Kurdish or Turkish is sacred and as much as a Turkish mother mourns the pain of the loss of her son, it is no different for a Kurdish mother. By no means whatsoever can violent struggles be condoned and in this new era the PKK must ultimately give up its armed struggled, but Turkey has seriously miscalculated the PKK issue and continuous to do so to its detriment.

The PKK started their operation in 1984 on the back of the military junta that gripped Turkey between 1980 and 1983. This was at a time when repressive policies against the Kurds were at their peak.

Now imagine, for one minute that there was never an Abdullah Ocalan or a PKK organisation in existence in Turkey, would there be peace today or would the situation be any different? The simply is an overriding no.

The PKK was born out of the situation, and the situation was not born out of the PKK. In simple terms, if there was no Ocalan or PKK, there would simply have been another leader and another Kurdish group that would have filled the vacuum.

More importantly, the PKK have merely continued the legacy of previous Kurdish revolts, uprisings and armed struggles. Only two years after the proclamation of the republic, Turkey crushed a revolt in 1925. This was just a flavour of what was to come.

Throughout Atatürk’s rule, conflict in the southeast of Turkey was a common feature. The last revolt of that era in Dersim was quelled by sheer force and use of chemical weapons.

It is Turkey that ultimately created the PKK and until this realisation hits home, there will never be peace, brotherhood and harmony in Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, in an apparent u-turn from his original stance of blaming Assad for rise in PKK violence, summed it up perfectly:

“Terror in Turkey did not appear as a result of the developments in Syria, it is a problem that has lasted for 30 years.”

Is the issue really 5000 or so PKK guerrilla’s or the 15 million Kurds? Lets say that Turkey was able to achieve its long-term goal of eradicating the PKK and 5000 rebels perished, can they guarantee under the current climate that another 5000 would not readily replace them?

Mere branding of the PKK as “terrorists” only services to mask the nationalist struggle that continues to plague Turkey.

Kurdish Rights in Turkey

There is no doubt that the situation of the Kurds in Turkey is a far cry from yesteryears but it has a long way to go, and although inconsistently employed the government has taken a number of bold steps. However, the polarisation of government policies and the military struggles runs too deep for wounds to easily heal.

Ankara has made a number of symbolic strides in addressing its Kurdish issue, but it has seemingly deemed these as sufficient to believe that there is no longer a “Kurdish issue”.

Ironically, the Kurdish issue if anything with the revolutionary winds in the Middle East has increased. Kurds in Turkey see Arabs and even their ethnic brethren achieve rights and yet how can they be expected to settle for the rights that Turkey deems “fair” to provide?

The bottom line is fear. Ankara has always feared the Kurds and for decades was able to effectively subdue them in line with the policies of neighbouring governments against their portion of Kurdish populations.

The more that Turkey continues along the lines of fear, the more that what they fear will come to light.

The violent struggle in Turkey serves no side and most Kurds are fed up of war, impoverishment and lack of investment in their region. Money is an important language and if the Kurds were able to enjoy employment, better standards of living, first class status then Turkey would see just how much the PKK would be supported.

Through the history of the Turkish republic, there have hardly ever been any significant Kurdish parties in parliament and most have been hastily shut down.

Now the BDP is facing the same plight as their predecessor. As violence has escalated in Turkey with August experiencing some of the highest level of confrontations since 1984, a BDP encounter with some PKK rebels caused inevitable uproar. Strangely, there were politicians, rebels and even the media but no state presence.

It is no secret that the PKK has a large support base amongst Kurds in Turkey but for many Kurds the PKK is their FSA, PLO or KLA. For them the PKK represents their national struggle. Not all Kurds agree with violence means but certainly see the PKK as their flag bearer, especially as the voted for AKP in large numbers but grew increasingly frustrated.

Whether open or private, it is not illogical that the PKK would have sentimental support from the BDP. After all they share the same cause and nationalism, if not the same platform.

Only when the grassroots support for the PKK is cut and Kurdish moderates are embraced can Turkey tip the balance against the PKK.

The end game

Most Turks are fierce nationalists and the mere idea of negotiating with the PKK or surrendering to their demands is a major red-line. The battle between the PKK and Ankara has become a question of pride and with sides are as entrenched as ever. No side is willing to cede with fear of their call for peace been perceived as a sign of weakness.

Turkey continues to reassure Kurds on the one hand and battle Kurds on the other, whilst trying to demarcate between a group of rebels and the general Kurdish population. Unfortunately, it is not about a group of rebels. If it was that simple the PKK would have been destroyed a long-time ago. It’s about addressing the root of the issue as opposed to cutting the branches of your problems.

It begs the question of just why Turkey has allowed the struggle to straddle for so long. Without a doubt the PKK has benefited many in the Turkish hierarchy as it has provided fuel to maintain the status-quo.

Times have dramatically changed and as the Middle East unravels, Turkey must either address new realities and influence the present or become swept as history is made.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: eKurd.net, Various Misc.

The ‘Kurdish opening’ in Turkey remains as open as ever

There is no doubt that the relations with Kurds both withinTurkeyand also with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have improved under the auspices of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However, one cannot help but see a man who appears shackled and incoherent, in the midst of reformists, Islamists and pioneers on the hand and secularists, nationalists and conservatives on the other hand.

As a result, the onset of the Kurdish issue or the ‘Kurdish opening’ as coined by Erdogan has been inconsistent and often prone to taking one step forward and two steps back.

Clearly, the Kurdish situation is a far cry from the dark days of the 1980’s and beyond. From sheer denial and second class status, Kurds have increasingly become a critical pawn on the Turkish sociopolitical board.

However, amidst a backdrop of controversy, political friction, ongoing battles with PKK, not to mention ideological battles in the Turkish parliament, to say thatTurkeyno longer has a Kurdish issue is an illusion.

Whether it is an ethnic problem or the problem of individual Kurdish citizens, it is still primarily a Kurdish problem that needs both short-term and long-term solutions more than ever.

However you label the problem, the measures, initiatives and remedies remain the same. As such, the Kurdish opening is as open as ever.

There is no doubt that Erdogan has taken some bold steps, starting in August 2005 when he openly admitted the presence of a Kurdish problem and the regretful way the Kurdish situation has been handled by previous governments. Some democratic reforms have progressively taking place which in a historical context may seem like significant concessions but in practice do not meet demands or expectations expected in the modern age.

At a time, when a breeze of change is happening across the Middle East,Turkeyas a strategic actor in the region does not need reminding that minority rights fall well short of those expected of a future EU country.

The Kurdish problem is real and needs to be addressed in wholesale measures and not piecemeal gestures. The longer such the Kurdish issue is sidetracked, mislabeled or neglected, the more the situation will fester and become the achilles heel ofTurkey.

The presence of millions of Kurds inTurkeyis a fact as is a war that has raged on for decades against PKK militants with no clear outcome. Whilst any armed insurrection or the death of any civilian, Turkish or Kurdish, is highly regrettable, successive governments have certainly manipulated the separatist tag and the more ardent Kurdish sentiment, while not filling the vacuum by reaching out to more liberal Kurds.

Not all Kurds are separatists or anti-Turkey lest supporters of violence.  There is no reason why the Kurdish community cannot become a celebrated, diverse and symbolic part ofTurkeyif they are sufficiently tied into the makeup and future of the country.

All too often, the Kurds have become stuck between PKK camps of thought and repressive governments. This stalemate has lead to a vicious cycle of “no war, no peace”, where only the ordinary Kurds have suffered.

If the region had better investments, new infrastructure, expansion of cultural rights and economic prosperity, the very root of the PKK dilemma will be cut. You can cut the branches of your problem indefinitely, but without bold, ambitious and practical steps, only a policy of fire-fighting will ensue.

To give the greater Kurdish population a firm alternative, the Turkish government must encourage Kurdish political development in the region not try to cripple the onset of real interlocutors in the Kurdish issue.

In his recent speeches in the south east, Erdogan has been vigorously critical of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

Amidst a backdrop of nationalist fever and general hawkish pressure, criticism of the PKK and its jailed leader Abdulah Öcalan is somewhat inevitable, but the measures to blight the credibility of the BDP, not to mention the dozens of closures of Kurdish parties in the past, only stoke tensions further.

While his speech was a strong emotive message about the fraternity of Kurds and Turks, the practical measures in the background do not always correlate with the essential sentiments of his speech.

AKP is desperate to win the Kurdish vote and this is by no means a foregone conclusion, especially if they continue to alienate the liberal or the yet undecided Kurds. While historically the AKP has fared well in the region, Kurdish sentiments have been increasingly swayed away from them as entity that can serve their needs.

Erdogan boldly stated “this land is our land. This is our motherland. There is no discrimination, no separatism. We are one, and we are together. We will be one, we will be united, we will be big and fresh”. Only with the right practical steps, incentives and implementation of real democratic reform will this truly happen and not be left to mere electoral rhetoric.

The idea that you can end decades of unrest, conflict, repression and ethnic grievance in a few years of limited reforms is a misnomer. Only in 2005 was the Kurdish issue officially highlighted and only in the past few years has a Kurdish opening or democratic reforms been discussed. As much as deep-rooted issues as those in the south east did not come about in a few years, the resolutions cannot be established as easily as limited reforms in few short years or without a proper roadmap or supports from all levels of society.

“Every tear shed in this region seeped into our hearts, conscience and soul…” proclaimed Erdogan. Tears may be wiped away but mental scars remain. Only with true co-existence and equal status, can Turks and Kurds flourish hand in hand. What the Kurds want is essentially no different to those of any Turkish citizen – employment, a good standard of living, education and a bright future.

Erdogan’s move to visit the KRG region in March of this year can only be commended. The Kurds are major players in the region and the need for new thinking, cross-regional harmony and mutual economic benefit overrides outdated nationalist ethos and Turkish fears.

The Kurds of Iraq rely heavily onTurkeyas a gateway in economic, cultural and political terms. As much as the Kurds needTurkey,Turkeyhas come to realize that it needs the Kurds both within their borders and also inIraq.

Meanwhile, as the PKK claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a convoy ofTurkey’s ruling party, nationalist tensions were hardly eased, as Ocalan threatened a harsh response unless Turkey begins dialogue to end the conflict within six weeks.

Clearly, many discreet meetings have taken place with Ocalan, but efforts to lay down arms have been clearly inconclusive, with Ocalan blaming the AKP government for failing to respect an “agreement” to halt military operations.

However, the violence is increasingly used for political advantage and any concessions ahead of the elections are unlikely, whilst the way frequent protests which have been quelled by the government in the south east have hardly helped to bridge the divide.

If the Kurdish political parties increasingly operate under a PKK shadow on the one hand and government hostility on the other, the PKK will continue to threaten to be the only representative voice of the Kurds. Any democratic process or real political gain can only stall without true recognisable and widely respected Kurdish interlocutors on the ground.

The greatest goal of the Turkish government should be to isolate the PKK, not militaristically or economically but emotionally. Unless it continues to implement real and tangible solutions to its Kurdish problem, the vicious cycle will only continue unabated.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: eKurd, Various Misc.

The vicious cycle of ‘no peace, no war’ bites Turkey once more

Hope and growing expectation that the age-old Kurdish issue could be finally resolved in Turkey, underlined by the government’s bold and historical undertaking referred to as the “Kurdish opening”, quickly evaporated.

The derailment of the brief positivity that was sewn in the much impoverished and conflict scarred east of Turkey is highlighted by the dramatic escalation of events in Turkey this past week.

The PKK have evidently escalated attacks in recent weeks, but the death tolls marked by a string of deadly attacks over the past number of days has rocked Turkey and stirred nationalist anger.

A bomb attack on a bus in Istanbul, claimed by an off-shoot of the PKK, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), brought the number of soldiers killed to 17 in less than week.

This has placed immense pressure on Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, already under broad attack from the opposition and nationalist circles for his attempts to reach out to the Kurds and ultimately reach out to the PKK to lay down their arms.

This all begs the question, where did it all go wrong? Surely, all sides would seek to capitalise on positive motions to bring peace to Turkey and a democratic settlement to such an age old problem that has left scars on both sides? The simple answer is no. This is Turkey after all, and cracks formed from decades of nationalistic policies, disenfranchisement, bitter feelings from both circles and a raging guerrilla war that has claimed thousand of lives, will not be papered over all too easily.

Turkey has finally come to the realisation that cutting the branches of your problem is not equivalent to cutting its root. As long as the PKK machine is fuelled by government policies, peace will not be achievable and bloodshed will continue.

The greatest goal of the Turkish government should be to isolate the PKK, not militaristically or economically but emotionally. Not all Kurds support the PKK and certainly only a very small minority of Kurds prefer bloodshed to peace.

However, even as Kurdish political parties with firstly the DTP which was dramatically ousted last year for alleged links with the PKK and was the first fatal blow to the peace process, and there successor the BDP, have had presence in the Turkish parliament, they have failed to become the true representatives of the Kurds and have succumbed under the great PKK shadow and persistent attempts in Turkey to clip their wings, before the political birds could even fly.

However, the Turkish government hardly helped their cause, in spite of what initially seemed positive developments between the AKP and the now defunct DTP last year.

Nationalists and Kemalists have gulped at the mere idea that the Kurdish problem should be drawn on a democratic or ethnic basis and have persistently acknowledged the battle with the PKK as a fight against terrorism. In truth, the root of this battle is for greater cultural and democratic rights, freedoms and social development in the Kurdish region.

As such, these democratic openings and initiatives can only be attained in the Turkish parliament, not in the mountains or by the sheer military might of any army. Therefore, the more the Kurdish issue is rendered to a battle in the distant mountains, whilst the situation on the ground deteriorates, this only entices Turkey into a vicious “no peace, no war” cycle that as history has shown has blighted both sides.

In spite of widespread public pressure and the recent attacks, Erdogan maintained his pledge to the Kurdish opening and the broadening of Kurdish rights. However, as violence escalates, Erdogan will have a fight on his hand to instil any motion in parliament against a backdrop of opposition and sheer animosity. Constitutional changes, the fundamental aim of the Kurds, will become almost impossible in such a tense and nationalistically polluted climate.

In reality, ongoing tension in many ways supports the nationalist and Kemalist circles, the Turkish military as well as the PKK. As peace and democratic moves falter, the PKK continues to be the flagship of the Kurds.

It is important for Turkey not to rescind on its pledges, lest allow the PKK to take centre stage again. It must support and encourage Kurdish political evolvement, which has historically been starved and facilitate true representation in the Turkish parliament, rather than pressure, alienate or as has been common place, shut down Kurdish parties all together.

The peace initiative took a great blow when the government was largely embarrassed, as what should have been a milestone for the Kurdish opening with the surrender of a number of PKK rebels last year turned into a pro-PKK ceremony.

Currently, there has emerged a huge vacuum in the peace process that can not be so easily bridged. The Turkish government will simply refuse to ever negotiate directly with the PKK, let alone be seen to succumb to the rebels. The war with the PKK has become far too bloody, too many scars have developed and too much pride is at stake for that to ever happen.

Yet as long as the PKK continues to be the representative voice of the Kurds, then the process is stalled without true recognisable and widely respected Kurdish interlocutors on the ground.

The aim of Turkey should remain unhindered. Reach out to the Kurds and entice them into a genuine alternative between separatism and violence on the one hand, and historical repression by successive Turkish governments on the other.

The tears of a mother, whether Kurdish or Turkish, are sacred. Violence serves no gain and only deepens scars. The more deaths that emerge, the more that both sides reach deeper into the position of no return.

When the Kurds see development of their region, democratic rights, employment and a firm place as true partners of the Turks, Kurds will themselves turn on separatists or those who seek violence or bring instability.

For now, the situation will get worse before it gets better. With imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan openly abandoning efforts to seek dialogue, this has culminated in a fresh wave of violence, with the PKK threatening more attacks until its demands for greater rights are fulfilled.

While Erdogan remains persistent on his bold and historical opening, he can not at the same time watch as attacks escalate and pressure mounts. A dismayed Erdogan accused European countries of not doing enough in its combat against terrorism.

This was an all too frequent criticism of the US in the past, even as the US have openly denounced the PKK and publicly defended the Turkish government while often overlooking Turkish actions in Iraq.

As Turkey continues to flagrantly breach Iraqi sovereignty with military incursions and air raids, this places the Iraqi Kurds into a more precarious predicament. Iraqi Kurds, who have often been blamed for aiding the PKK, have repeatedly refused to fight fellow Kurds.

However, with the much welcome thawing of relations between Turkey and Kurdistan in recent times resulting in the landmark visit by Kurdistan President Massaud Barzani, the Iraqi Kurds may well have a price to pay for the new strong bond with Turkey.

Barzani pledged “all efforts” to assist Turkey on his visit, and the Turkish government may well give the Iraqi Kurds more support and official recognition, including annexation of disputed territories, for their hand in further alienating the PKK.

This places the Kurdistan government into a tough situation. It needs the strategic support and recognition of Turkey to prosper and develop, while at the same time it does not want the PKK problem to become a greater Kurdish issue. After all, no matter how you look at it, the Kurdish dilemma in Turkey is a cultural and democratic one, specific to Turkey alone and can only be resolved in the Turkish parliament – and no where else.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: eKurd, Peyamner, Various Misc.

DTP ban clouds quest to mend bridges in Turkey

Two months can be a relatively long-time when it comes to politics in Turkey. Only recently there was widespread optimism and hope that Turkey was finally intent on tackling its age-old Kurdish dilemma head-on. However, hope quickly turned into despair with the contentious decision to ban the Democratic Society Party (DTP) by the Turkish Constitutional Court for its alleged links to the PKK, a claim that has long reverberated in hawkish circles.

Big Swing in Turkey

When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a historic speech, widely referenced as the “Kurdish Opening”, his vision was as courageous as his boldness to pass momentous democratic measures in Turkey against a backdrop of opposition.

The plan itself took several more weeks to be unveiled as widespread bickering, controversy and debate gripped Turkey around the ground breaking measures proposed.

Whilst the steps finally unveiled fell short of Kurdish expectations and was undoubtedly watered-down under heavy criticism and pressure from the Turkish opposition, it was nevertheless for a country that long denied even the existence of its Kurdish population an important step that was hoped would finally bring unison and stability to the south east of Turkey.

DTP banned

The decision to ban the DTP in many ways has been long-time coming. Almost as soon as the DTP became the first Kurdish party in the Turkish parliament for 14 years, the party found itself under pressure from many a circle intent on clipping the wings of a growingly influential party in the much disenfranchised Kurdish quarters.

Although the decision is bitterly disappointing especially in light of the great deceleration affect it has had on the Kurdish initiative, until mindsets are greatly changed in Turkey such decisions are unsurprising.

The closure of the party is the last in the line of 10 Kurdish parties to be closed down by Turkish authorities. Under the orders of the prosecution, 37 party members including DTP leader Ahmet Turk have been banned from politics for five years. The harsh penal codes when it comes to preserving the foundations of the Turkish republic has meant that even the ruling AKP party has not been immune to the viciousness of the Turkish constitutional courts.

Once sentiments had somewhat calmed, Ahmet Turk strongly indicated that the remaining politicians where the DTP held 21 seats in the 550-member parliament, would form another group and remain in parliament.

Whilst the disillusionment of the politicians is understandable, it is of paramount importance that the Kurds remain on the democratic road. Regardless, of whether another 10 pro-Kurdish parties are banned in subsequent years, it remains very clear that the only place that Kurdish issue can be solved is via parliament and not in the mountains via sheer military force.

Who represents the Kurds?

Clearly, the PKK continues to assume strong support amongst the Kurds in Turkey. Although the DTP made fundamental gains at the municipal elections earlier this year, the PKK continues to be the common denominator when it comes to any discussion around the Kurdish issue.

Whilst the DTP could have done more to take over the new mantle as the chief representation of the Kurds and distance itself emotively from the PKK, the PKK cloud continued to linger in the DTP window. The PKK trace is deep-rooted in south east, namely as the Kurds have had no parliamentary representation in successive decades and thus in reality a lack of political alternatives to dilute the PKK influence over the years.

Certainly for Turkey, the decision to ban the only legal Kurdish body will have an adverse affect on democracy in the region. Ironically, this position places the PKK closer to the fore as the bastion of Kurdish identity.

Years of bloodshed and billions of dollars of expenditure has continually highlighted that without addressing the root cause of the Kurdish struggle, gulfs will continue to widen in Turkey.

Whilst Erdogan’s guile stirred Kurdish optimism and at least theoretically placed the long-term role of the PKK in jeopardy, the decision to ban the DTP once again leaves a feeling of despondency and a lack of faith amongst the Kurds.

Furthermore, as it currently stands almost 2.5 million people have affectively lost their representation. Unless this political gap can be urgently filled, then this will stir more bitterness and disappointment.

This is not the first time, and many suspect not the last, where Turkish rhetoric around resolving its Kurdish dilemma has not been met with real intent or concrete steps.

Opposition backlash

After much promise from the Turkish government, there is a big feeling of Turkish backtracking over the historic steps. The immense pressure from nationalist circles in Turkey placed severe pressure on the government and Turkish courts not to be seen as weak or undermining the foundations of the Turkish republic, which for many has almost mystical importance.

The surrender of a small group of PKK guerrillas was designed as a test of Turkish desire and it was hoped that this would be the first of many.

However, the surrender was met with such high-profile jubilation from Kurds that it almost felt like a victory parade for the PKK and this has proved a counter-productive step by the Kurds. It yet again placed focus on the PKK as the real front of the Kurdish initiative, which for the government was embarrassing and emanated weakness in the face of their arch enemy.

The intense media coverage this received placed a devastating knock on Erdogan’s initiative. This was a fundamental chance for the DTP who were key actors in the historic surrender to firmly assume the mantle piece as the chief interlocutors of the Kurdish movement. However, in many regards the DTP failed to truly out-strip the PKK shadow as the new champion of the Kurdish movement.

Widespread riots in Kurdish cities over the prison conditions of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan followed by a number of high-profile clashes between the PKK and the Turkish army only added fuel to a raging opposition fire.

While Erdogan, who was strongly critical of the decision to ban the DTP and vowed to press on with his vision of reforms, became increasingly isolated the Turkish government realised that changing mindsets would be a much more difficult task than they imagined.

In a twist of irony, not long ago Erdogan held a number of meetings with Ahmet Turk regarding the initiative which he hailed for its positive impact and productive influence.

Pressure from EU

The decision to band the DTP was met with disappointment from the EU, which has placed the enhancement of minority rights as a keystone of Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

Whilst this saga has served a significant blow, it simply must not detract either Kurds or Turks from reality. The future of Turkey relies on the affective integration of the Kurdish population. Decades of nationalistic polices has served no side and if Turkey harbours any glimmer of aspirations to join the EU then this must come with the realisation that this can only occur if the Kurds and Turks enter the EU hand-in-hand.

The era of violence in any struggle is over. The world is exponentially smaller and much more transparent than ever before. No nation can systemically deny another lest if the world turns a blind eye. Support for the PKK remains strong but to dwindle this down Turkey must take more courageous steps and embark on a long-term opening with patience and perseverance than expect that Kurdish sentiments can be easily swayed.

Just as it is difficult to sway Turkish nationalist sentiments towards the Kurds, it will take just as long to convince Kurds that the Turkish government is sincere in finally embracing them as a fundamental cog of the Turkish landscape.

With the DTP vowing to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the ruling of the Constitutional Court, this episode may just receive the global spotlight that will put pressure on the Turkish government to reenergise its widely-highlighted goal of broadening Kurdish rights.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Online Opinion, eKurd, Peyamner, Various Misc.

Building new bridges in Turkey based on old realities

The time has come to usher a new era of peace and brotherhood. This no longer has to be a distant pipedream but an emerging reality that can propel Turkey to new cohesion and unity.

After 25 years of bloodshed and missed opportunities, Turkey must realise that cutting the branches of your problem is fruitless without addressing its root.

After much blood has been spilled, thousands have been killed, billions of wasted expenditure and decades of ethno-social animosity, Turkey got no closer to resolving its most prevalent issue since the formation of the republic. By the same token, as far as the PKK are concerned, violence and insurrection is no longer the solution to addressing its goals in the modern era. The opportunity for long-term peace has not been greater than at any time in history.

In the context of past policies, whilst recent reform and democratisation measures may have falling short of expectations, they still serve as remarkable progress for a country where the word “Kurd” has been a deep-rooted taboo. Now the times for ubiquitous promises are over and the Turkish government must implement concrete steps to back its rhetoric.

Greater consensus

Last month, the AKP government spearheaded by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, announced a new democratisation motion in the shape of a package of landmark reforms designed to address the Kurdish issue through greater rights and recognition. In the governments own words the initiative was a “courageous” step aimed at ending the violence and building new bridges in Turkey. 

Whilst the contents of the plans have been concealed, measures by the government have been met with resistance from opposition parties and also from the “guardians of the republic”, the nationalist army.

It says a lot about the high sensitivity that prevails on the Kurdish topic that the government is anxious to ascertain broad public approval for the plans across the Turkish mosaic and has frequently defended its plans. Divided opinion remains common on the Kurdish issue and the nationalist circles remain highly-emotive about any plans that are deemed to break the mystical foundations of the republic.

Clearly, the problem for Turkey has never been a few thousand rebels in the mountains but the issue of 15 million Kurds, a great portion of its society. Kurdish rights and freedoms have been quelled for decades for simple fear that the Kurds endanger the sovereignty and unity of the republic. Such fears have resurfaced with warnings from Turkish army chiefs and opposition parties that any plans must not endanger unity or age-old Kemalist principles.

As a non-Turkic entity and the perceived potential harm they can cause to the foundations of Turkish society, successive governments have gone to great lengths to repress and assimilate Kurds and to eradicate elements of culture and “Kurdishness” from the Turkish landscape. However, this has failed to mask the fact that Kurds are a distinct ethnic entity and have every right to enjoy an equitable existence in lands they have inhibited for thousands of years.

A Turkey for both Kurds and Turks

Even the staunch nationalist army has realised over time that they can not defeat the PKK through sheer force alone without dealing with the heart of the issue and enticing the Kurds into brotherly ties. Whilst it may be easier to focus on ridding the mountains of the rebels, the real focus should be to ascertain why the rebels remain grounded with support in their battle.

The majority of the Kurds do not decree separatism and prefer to remain in a prosperous and modern European state with aspirations to join the EU. The advantages of the Kurds becoming a key productive component of Turkey are endless. If the Kurds were effectively enticed with more rights, employment and investment in the region, support for armed struggle in the midst of such greater benefits and gains that come from been part of a major European state would rapidly evaporate.

The Turkish “fear” culture of the Kurds should diminish and Kurds should finally be embraced as an essential and rightful cog of Turkish society. Antagonism must end and bloodshed must cease. The face of a mourning mother on either side of the divide is a tragedy, the life of a Kurd and Turk are just as sacred as another.

For wounds to heal between Kurds and Turks, one must look to the future and not the past. The past may have been grim and harsh but a solid future could be built based on harmony, peace and prosperity and above all else equality.

Diversity in Turkey should not be masked and repelled but embraced. Ethnic and cultural diversity of a country say much about its fundamentals, heritage and history. While nationalists will embrace every inch of Turkish land then by the same token it is unacceptable that large swathes of the Turkish southeast remain impoverished and lacking key infrastructure. Why shouldn’t all parts of Turkey treated by the same regard in reality as it is enshrined in the constitution?

With a more open society and breaking down the Kurdish fear factor, perhaps it may not be too long before Turks from the west of Turkey can visit the southeast in greater numbers through tourism and taste another flavour of Turkey. Any why not? The southeast of Turkey has as much of a fascinating history and culture as anywhere else. It is a part of Turkey after all and therefore should not be treated as a distance neglected land inhibited by a people who “despise” Turkey.

The path to reform

Whilst reform over past several years has been welcome, it has essentially been in dribs and drabs rather than wholesale measures aimed at resolving the problem. True reform as the government have seemingly proposed must be all encompassing and not implemented in half-measures.

At the core of “courageous” reforms must be the advent of constitutional changes. No reform or initiative that addresses the heart of the republic can be ultimately successful without amendments to the blueprint of the country – its constitution. The principle that Turkey is for Turks only is an outdated ethos. This doesn’t mean that the greater foundations of the republic will necessarily unravel, it just means that Turkey can finally get away from a nationalist mentality that was planted at such contrasting times in history to the current era of globalisation, democracy and diversification that we find ourselves in today.

Kurds must be recognised as a distinct minority within Turkey with the Kurdish language noted as one of the official languages of Turkey. The Kurdish population should be allowed to exercise more language rights in the south east and a level of autonomy must be granted to municipalities in the Kurdish parts of the country. Kurdish names should be freely used in public and villages should be renamed to their original names.

The Kurdish “region” should now be treated as a distinct part of Turkey, not to promote separatism but to build a bridge based on this reality to create a new unison.

Although, the government has pledged a “democratic path”, it has ruled out direct negotiations with the PKK or greater amnesty. The PKK is a key actor in the region and if the Turkish government refuses a bilateral peace with view to dissolving the PKK as a military force, reforms may prove counterproductive.

Rallies in Turkey

Recent celebratory military parades were used as a show of force by the army that it still holds the aces in preserving the core foundations of the republic. The Turkish army chief recently stated that he “respects cultural diversity” but was opposed to the politicisation of the issue, a thinly-veiled caution that major changes to the blueprint of the Turkish republic would be blocked.

Rallies were also organised in Diyarbakir to promote peace initiatives and Kurdish rights. Arguably, announcement of reform packages were pushed through by the Turkish government in light of Abdullah Ocalan’s own declaration of a “road map” that he plans to release on resolving the Kurdish issue.

Whilst Turkey has ruled out negotiations with the PKK, in what would arguably be portrayed as a major “defeat” for Turkey by opposition parties, the government has held encouraging talks with the Democratic Society Party (DTP) after previously contentious relations, an important development since in practice the DTP has become the bastion of the Kurdish political movement.

A great platform has been afforded for peace and brotherhood in Turkey. If the measures are enforced in the same vigour as intent then a great future can be forged in Turkey for both its Kurdish and Turkish constituents.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Peyamner, Various Misc.