Was it the PKK leader who stopped the PKK demos?
The idea of asking for the assistance of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), began to become clear in the minds of Turkish officials in morning hours of Oct. 8, before a security meeting chaired by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
The death toll in the morning hours of Oct. 8 from the previous night had already hit 19 (it is now 25, as of when this piece was written). A day before, the government had to declare a curfew in six provinces in the predominantly Kurdish-populated eastern and southeastern provinces near the Iraqi and Syrian borders in order to prevent more bloodshed. Army units with their tanks and armored vehicles were on the streets of cities, including Diyarbakır, for the first time in 34 years, after the 1980 military coup.
There were reports that PKK militants had raided the buildings of the Free Cause Party (Hüda-Par), the political formation of the Kurdish Hizbullah after Hizbullah laid down its arms a few years ago, and lynched at least four Hüda-Par members. Ten of the deaths that day were in Diyarbakır. In the fight between the PKK and Hizbullah in the first half of the 1990s, hundreds of people were killed from both sides. A Hüda-Par statement on the night of the incident said it was ready to fight with the PKK again “if they [the PKK] are ready.”
That was an alarming situation for the Turkish security forces. It would not only kill the peace process dialogue between the government and the PKK, but add to the existing problems created by the attacks of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the Turkish borders. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was about to arrive in Ankara for talks about possible joint action regarding ISIL and the next day, Oct. 9, a U.S. delegation was set to come to discuss the modalities of more Turkish military contributions to the U.S.-led anti-ISIL front.
Demonstrations were ignited across the country following a call by the popular front of the PKK in order to protest the government for not giving military support to the Kurds fighting in Kobane, the predominately Kurdish-populated Syrian town near the Turkish border, against ISIL. Members of Parliament from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which shares the same grassroots as the PKK, were very active in demonstrations, which had gone out of control by the afternoon of Oct. 7.
In the security meeting, Davutoğlu shared the Öcalan plan with the others. In the evening hours, a piece of paper on which Öcalan’s message was written was ready to be delivered to the HDP. Öcalan was telling HDP leaders that the violence should come to an end at once because otherwise there could be “massacres” and the peace dialogue might end, at a time when the government is establishing legal commissions for the official negotiations. It is also a fact that the continuation of the dialogue could mean relative free movement for Öcalan in prison, including a separate building in the prison complex with the possibility of limited telephone access, and perhaps also a secretary.
According to security sources, at the start of Oct. 9 the HDP and the outlawed Kurdish Communities Union’s (KCK) units across the country, but especially in the problematic southeast, knew that the demonstrations should stop.
HDP co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş then announced a press conference in Diyarbakır at 12:00 p.m. Before that, at 10:00 a.m., another HDP delegation visited Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan in his office in Ankara.
Sırrı Süreyya Önder, an MP for the HDP who has visited Öcalan many times in prison, said they wanted the dialogue process to continue. Right after that, a written statement was issued by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s press office, saying he was sorry for all of the losses and that the protests should come to an end. He also said he did not believe the protests were for Kobane, but rather against the government. Then Demirtaş appeared before the cameras in Diyarbakır and made his call “for all parties” to not get involved in violent protests.
In the afternoon, the government lifted the curfew in Diyarbakır, hoping that everything would return to normal.