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MEHMET ALİ BİRAND > Do not ever underestimate Leyla Zana

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It was those days when the Kurdish issue was defined as “the bandits of Apo.” Those who mentioned the Kurdish issue were jailed. It was the time when I first wrote in daily Milliyet, “Let’s name this correctly… It is not banditry; this is a Kurdish issue,” and all hell broke loose. I know Diyarbakır independent deputy Leyla Zana from those times.

I saw her before she went into politics, during her political years and also while she was in jail.

She was always a serious personality who knew what she wanted. She has never changed in that aspect. As it happened in all of us, while the Kurdish issue changed, her views indeed also changed.

At one time, if she wished, she could have been the Joan of Arc of Turkey in Europe. Europe was ready for this. They wanted to adopt her as the symbol of Kurds. I too was working in Brussels in those days. Be it in the European Parliament or the Council of Europe, I know Zana’s prestige and the preparations. If she had accepted it, she would have traveled back and forth to deliver speeches; she could have been both famous and rich. The road to be opened could have led to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Zana did not want this. She didn’t do it. I could not understand whether it was not to overshadow Öcalan or other reasons. But she never played games on this topic. She demonstrated her stance clearly.

I have gotten to know Leyla Zana with all this background.

Now, when the same Zana turns to the prime minister and says, “It is only you who can solve this issue,” I do not underestimate it. Others may see it differently but the Zana I know does not take such an initiative just for the show. She would not waste her prestige of years for a few weeks of adventure. She would never drop the cause she believes in. She is realistic. Meanwhile she openly says what she believes in.

We are facing such a Leyla Zana.

To reopen the negotiation path
There were objections to Leyla Zana’s recent initiative from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Obviously the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is not very happy but does not raise its voice much. Öcalan cannot raise a voice anyway.

I think Zana can obtain some results from this initiative if circumstances settle into place and if parties act with goodwill.

Take care, that right now negotiations have stopped. However, both sides want them to restart; both sides have preconditions.

The Turkish Republic says, “Lay down your arms, move your forces back, we can start negotiations.”
PKK answers, “Stop your operations and we lay down our arms.”

Zana has emerged right at this stage and however much the BDP opposes it, she said it was only Erdoğan who can solve this problem. It is true. Right now, the whole power is in the prime minister’s hand. It is only he who can show this courage and stand to the political risk.

Erdoğan, by immediately opening his door, showed that he is hopeful about Zana. He also knows very well that if he solves this problem he will make history. He also sees that expectations for a solution are rising in society.

It is only the PKK left. It is like a closed box. They say both that they want peace and also they cannot give up terror. However, the Turkish side is not affected by terror as it used to be. We have somehow gotten used to pain.

Leyla Zana has stepped in at such a deadlocked time. And she has done a fine act by doing so.

July/06/2012

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