‘New’ Kurdish strategy item by item

‘New’ Kurdish strategy item by item

Yesterday (Thursday) in two newspapers (Milliyet and Taraf), two stories almost identical with each other were published about the state’s new strategy on the Kurdish and the PKK issues. I want to discuss this new strategy based on one of these stories, the one daily Milliyet’s Ankara Representative Fikret Bila penned. Bila has summarized “the milestones and the road map it envisions” in 10 items.

Let’s go item by item: 

1) In solving the Kurdish issue, no channel other than the channel of civil politics will be trusted or used: Here, it is remarkable that, instead of a flexible sentence such as “the civilian politics channel will be taken as a basis,” it is stated that no other channel will be trusted. Actually this is not a new discourse; several governments in the past persistently defended this line. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had, at exactly this point, the opportunity to make a difference because it also trusted other channels. This means that they are giving up on the search to make a difference. Consequently, there is no “new” approach; there is rather a “return to the past” in question. 

2) Öcalan in İmrali and PKK, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party - in either Kandil or in Europe - will not be recognized as interlocutors, they will be left out of the circuit. We can read this item as a kind of a self-criticism from the AKP. This is because these channels, which were partially used by previous governments, were systematically used by the AKP and serious investment had been poured in them. The stance that the prime minister took during the last MÝT crisis was seen as a signal that there might be a return to these types of negotiations, but obviously this is not the case. 

3) Kurdish citizens living in the southeast and other regions will be protected from the pressure of the PKK and KCK (the Kurdistan Communities Union, the alleged urban wing of the PKK). Again, this is a discourse from previous times. The only thing that is new is the addition of the KCK alongside the PKK. We have seen how this item was attempted to be implemented during the mercilessly applied KCK operations; however, the last incidents have shown that it is not so easy to break the connection between the people and the organization. In fact, those steps taken to break the bond actually strengthened the connection. 

4) With this aim, a solution will be sought through the civilian politics channel. In an environment from which the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has been excluded, it is obvious that what is meant by “civilian politics” is the AKP. However, we can say that the ruling party, which has selected low-profile names as deputies for the southeast, has a decreased chance to address the Kurds after the policies of oppression that were applied after the elections. 

5) No platform outside Parliament will be accepted as a place for a solution. Members of parties who have been elected through democratic means and are able to exert political initiative will be the interlocutors. We are going around in circles in the desire to create “a legal Kurdish political movement alternative to the PKK.” The life of this search, which was brought back to the agenda recently with Kemal Burkay’s return to the country, was not even a few days. Since it is out of the question for the BDP to challenge Ýmralý and Kandil, in the end it seems as if the AKP will try to solve the Kurdish issue alone. 

6) As long as the PKK continues its armed actions, armed clashes will continue: there is not too much to be said on this. No state can stay quiet against a force rebelling against it with arms. 

7) If there are more negotiations with the PKK, these can only be for them to lay down arms. This is the most key item of the strategy. Operations against the PKK and the KCK after the elections, the isolation of Öcalan, were all seen as tools to bring the PKK to its knees. We also hear that, at this point, quite a mission was loaded upon the Iraqi Kurds and predominantly on Barzani. However, what has been experienced so far shows that the PKK has no intention of laying down its arms. 

8) When the PKK hands in its weapons to Turkey, it will be determined what kind of a procedure will be applied to those who do not have judicial responsibility. In the event that the PKK lays down its weapons, since the biggest debate will focus on the future of the group’s leadership, this item cannot be called very meaningful.

9) There will not be a Kurdish identity or autonomy arrangement in the new constitution; the new constitution will be based on human rights and the equality of all citizens before the law. However, it cannot be said to be within reason to draw such red lines for the new constitution at the beginning of the road. Besides, the existing constitution also claims to be based on human rights and equality of citizens before law.

10) Local governance will be strengthened and principles based on international law will be taken as a basis: After the previous item, the promise to strengthen local governments does not sound credible at all. At the end of the day, when you take a look at the mindset of the state, it does not look possible that a new constitution will contribute much to the solution of the Kurdish issue

If all 10 of these items are evaluated collectively, it does not seem possible to define this strategy as “new” and hope for a sustainable solution from them. 

Ruþen Çakır is a columnist for daily Vatan in which this piece was published on March 23. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

Kurdish issue, Turkey, PKK