Will 2016 bring peace to Turkey?
The headlines of prominent Turkish newspapers heralded the coming of peace and comfort to Turkey late February of this year when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) announced what they called the “Dolmabahçe Agreement,” constituting of a road map to accomplish a Kurdish peace process. The 10-article agreement was regarded as the most important achievement that would bring about an ultimate solution to the Kurdish question and therefore an end to Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) three-decade-long terrorism.
The spring weather, however, did not last long. The failure of the PKK to fulfill its commitment to completely withdraw into northern Iraq and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strategy to suspend talks in order not to lose nationalist votes on the eve of June 7 polls have left the process unaccomplished.
The political situation worsened after the June elections as the AKP lost the parliamentary majority for the first time since 2002, which has been translated itself into a political vacuum accompanied with bloodshed starting in early July as the PKK announced a unilateral end of the ceasefire. Along with PKK terrorism, terrorist attacks committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) deepened the chaotic situation in Turkey as the country witnessed its most bloody terrorist attack in its history on Oct. 10 in Ankara when two suicide bombers killed more than 100 civilians. Hundreds of civilians and security officers have been killed as a result of this terrorist campaign, replacing the spring weather with bad weather.
Fear and dismay dominated the Nov. 1 early elections that resulted in a landslide victory of the AKP that succeeded in re-gaining the parliamentary majority it lost in June. However, contrary to expectations, the situation has not stabilized in the country as clashes between the PKK and security forces has intensified in some of the cities in the southeastern Anatolian region where terrorists stopped the entrance of security forces into these cities through trenches and roadblocks.
Government has declared curfews in many of these places; education and health services have been interrupted and civilians have had to leave their homes. For the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the situation in Turkey’s southeast is not much different from Syrian towns that have been ruined because of the ongoing five-year struggle between the regime and the opposition.
This last column of the year will unfortunately not be able to draw a positive prospect for the next year on societal peace as the ground for a political dialogue has long been lost. On the contrary, the tone and the level of criticisms from government officials against HDP members are sharpening, with prosecutors launching judicial process against prominent HDP lawmakers. President Erdoğan and government members have not given any signs that operations against terrorists will be slowed down while PKK high-level members are threatening to deepen and intensify their terrorist campaign in the region.
It’s under these conditions that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will meet with Kılıçdaroğlu on Dec. 30 and Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Jan. 4 to ask for their support for a set of reforms, including a new constitution. Although all parties agree on the need of renewing the charter, the Erdoğan-led campaign for the adoption of a presidential system is seen as the main obstacle before these efforts.
It’s obvious that Erdoğan will not shelve his ambition to change the system, which will continue to complicate the political situation and as well the state of security in the southeast. The 2016 will be a decisive year in this regard.