Kurdish problem at Turkish flag test
After a peaceful period of nearly two years following the Turkish government’s initiative to pursue a political solution to the chronic Kurdish problem, the tension has disproportionately increased in the last two weeks, reaching its top, when a Kurdish militant jumped into the garden of a major Air Force base in Diyarbakır despite warning shots, climbed the mast, pulled down the flag and ran on June 8.
The militant was a part of the rallies by the supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) protesting the killing of two supporters the day before in the Lice township of the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, when the gendarmerie opened fire on demonstrators, responding to “being fired upon with long barreled guns,” as an army statement said later on.
When that was heard, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), sharing the same grassroots with the PKK called for an emergency meeting and decided to make its weekly parliamentary group meeting in Lice on June 10, that is today, instead of Ankara, where Parliament is. But in the meantime, the outlawed Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the popular front of the PKK, released a statement asking all Kurdish youth to take to the mountains and join PKK, Kurds of all ages to join the “revolt wherever they are” and for the first time to “Turkish revolutionary youth” to join forces with the PKK.
The HDP deputies, who knew that the strong language and call to fight after a period of silence was not in line with the messages they had been receiving from Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK during their contacts, immediately asked the Justice Ministry to allow another meeting with Öcalan at the İmralı Island-prison south of Istanbul. Permission was granted immediately.
The flag incident took place while the MPs were waiting for the government’s permission.
Under other circumstances, the government would have reacted strongly and perhaps the soldiers would have not let the militant tear down the flag in the first place. In 1996, when Greek Cypriot Solomon Spiru Solomo attempted to take down the flag on the U.N. Green Line in between the two sides, he was shot dead by fire opened from the Turkish garrison there.
The first one to react was Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who said they were waiting for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan to say something regarding this “unacceptable” act of disrespect. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) very strangely did not make any statements during the day, but its youth organization, the Ülkü Ocakları (or the Grey Wolves as they are known publicly), decided to have a rally “for the flag,” in their first attempt to take the streets after years. The military during the afternoon hours made a statement, asking the authorities to find out who is responsible of this “unacceptable” act, which they “condemned,” as did parliamentary speaker Cemil Çiçek.
There has been no statement from the government side while this piece was being written, as they were probably waiting for news from Öcalan to come.
Meanwhile, as the Kurdish MPs were on their way, the KCK released another statement and said contact with Öcalan through the HDP deputies was no longer satisfying for them and they wanted to see their leader with their own eyes, which could be read as an indication of impatience growing in Kandil mountains, where the military headquarters of the PKK is, and also distrust of the civilian Kurdish politicians.
The PKK is clearly trying to test PM Erdoğan by escalating the tension as the country heads for presidential elections; the first round on Aug. 10 and the second on the 24th. Thinking Erdoğan has not secured the required 50 percent, the PKK wants to have immediate concessions from Erdoğan in exchange for votes. It is another question as to whether Erdoğan will bow to this blackmail, but on the other hand, the PKK worries if they miss this momentum, they may not find an Erdoğan who is willing to sit around a table for bargaining once again. What they have missed through the Diyarbakır incident, is the whole thing might boil down into a test over the national flag, which could jeopardize the whole “Peace Process,” as Erdoğan calls it.