Why is the Turkish government delaying the Kurdish package?
The upcoming package is not only a Kurdish package, corrects Hüseyin Çelik, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) spokesman, and continues: “It is a conceptual work for a relief of all layers in Turkey who feel themselves as ‘others’ of the establishment. That includes groups like non-Muslims, pious Muslims, Alevis and Kurds as well. That is why we call it a ‘democratization’ package.”
The “package” was expected to be revealed in August. It was the reason for the warning by both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish problem focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which share the same grassroots, urging the Tayyip Erdoğan government to take steps before Sept. 1. The deadline passed, but in the meantime Erdoğan has said they are at the final stages of work on the package, so needed some more time. The prime minister also sent a delegation from Turkish Intelligence (MİT) to the İmralı Island prison, where the founding leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, is held. Another visit to him was also arranged for a BDP delegation. With the government having announced that the package will be revealed “next week,” last week the 10th visit of the BDP to Öcalan this year took place. Erdoğan has now himself announced (for the second time in a row) that the package will be announced “by the end of this month.”
“That is not a delay” Çelik explains. “We needed some more time for the editing of the text and some last contacts for the contact. For example, the prime minister wants to share the concept with local party organizations today (Sept. 18) and on Friday. We are consulting as much people as possible.”
BDP co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş, on the other hand, told the Hürriyet Daily News that the government had not shown “even one article” of the package to them. After holding a meeting with Öcalan for two-and-a-half hours, (drawing a picture in words of a 65-year-old person with gray hair and a moustache now), Demirtaş suspects that the package has actually been ready “for months,” but that the AK Parti has been waiting for the right time to reveal it. “Not the right time for Turkey, but the right time for the party,” he criticizes. “We do not have great expectations anyway,” Demirtaş adds.
"They will probably present it as being as important as the first step of man on the moon, but we expect a mediocre set of measures of 25 to 30 points. This is not because I have seen the content, but because I think I know their mentality.”
“Have you ever seen the BDP satisfied by any move of our government?” Çelik asks. “Whether it is Kurdish TV, or elective courses in Kurdish, or the dialogue process itself? We have reached this stage from a starting point where the existence of Kurds and the Kurdish language were denied.” He underlines that the government is trying to take steps “with care, in order not to give any harm to the unity and togetherness” of the country.
Erdoğan said in a speech on Sept. 18 that the “democratization” package was on the way to “satisfy” the needs of all. However, Çelik thinks that when it is revealed by Erdoğan himself, the package will probably “not satisfy the nationalists” on either the Turkish and Kurdish side. “But we are not doing this to make any particular organization happy,” he concludes. “Especially not the PKK.”
Neither the PKK not the BDP seem terribly interested in the package any more. They are more interested in shifting the dialogue into political negotiations with the government, (particularly over the political future for the PKK, if and when there will be farewell to arms), and more flexibility for communication with Öcalan in prison. “Öcalan thinks that this is a must for a meaningful continuation of the process,” Demirtaş says. “Otherwise, it will be understood as the government dragging its feet to gain a political advantage, and will not serve a lasting peace.”