The Leyla Zana Case
Leyla Zana was able to find a place in the media with her female, Kurdish identity and experiences in jail. Her explanation on a solution to the Kurdish problem, which ascribed a special role to Prime Minister Erdoğan, provoked reactions in the media. Erdoğan was not silent. He reacted kindly and smartly, and then he negotiated with Zana. Unfortunately, the negotiation that started optimistically and with exaggerated meanings fell from the agenda, and some people could not understand this. This article analyzes the “Zana case” in terms of these actors.
During this period, we saw Erdoğan’s ability to manage public opinion one more time. He did the right thing for himself and for his party, because he could not keep silent on an explanation that was full of messages of peace and brotherhood. By negotiating with Zana, although it was not strategically important, he sparked domestic controversies in the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Moreover, he succeeded in showing that PKK is an uncompromising actor and closed to criticism. Besides, he portrayed himself as a conciliatory and tolerant leader. Of course, Erdoğan knows that Zana’s demands and suggestions are the same as the PKK’s. However, he succeeded in benefiting from this period.
For the PKK, the Zana case occurred as an unplanned, annoying domestic crisis. Besides, the PKK has a full agenda these days. The arrests of its frontline members have been continuing and a vital tool that is uses to affect the public has been taken out. In other words, the PKK’s political mobilization capacity on the streets has been delivered a blow. Moreover, related to Syria agenda, there is tension between Massoud Barzani and the PKK about who will be the political leader of the Kurds in Syria, and this situation distracts the PKK. Lastly, the lack of communication with Abdullah Öcalan is causing problems within the PKK.
It seems that the loser of the process is Zana. Although some people expected that her initiative could keep the PKK from violence by shaking the discipline of the organization, this wasn’t a realistic analysis. If the PKK does not cease fire from now until the following election - which seems difficult - Zana will say goodbye to her political career at Parliament. This is because a Zana excluded by the PKK cannot be a candidate for elections.
A movement that has Maoist principles cannot stand different voices and thoughts. Again, the PKK is a young organization; it has not experienced the generational process that will encourage domestic discussion and polarization. The founders of the organization are still alive and in the decision-making leadership positions. They cannot tolerate new participants. Furthermore, for the majority of the PKK, Öcalan is a semi-God and no one can dare to make changes that he has not determined. Lastly, the PKK is a learning organization and it knows how to provide domestic discipline. Thus, the PKK declared and practices “revolutionary war, a continuous action strategy.”
Consequently, similar to all Stalinist organizations, the PKK can easily declare its members as treacherous. It would not be surprising to see the PKK declare Zana “treacherous” – even indirectly – and for her to fall into contempt. In the PKK’s culture, heroes are chosen from the dead.