A guide to the PKK and the resolution process
Building on its initial steps to disarm the PKK and resolve the Kurdish question from 2009, Turkey initiated a new attempt to address the two issues with greater emphasis earlier this year. It is no easy task for observers from outside the country and with no Turkish language skills to accurately make sense of ongoing developments. It is not only the language barrier that obstructs their view but also the failed, age-old notion that the PKK has a role to play within the broader Kurdish question – a perception that observers constructed over the years.
First and foremost, the Kurdish question in Turkey is too complex to yield to simple definitions. The Kurdish question is but one of the chronic problems stemming from the founding rationale of modern Turkey and its nation-state. Therefore, “the universe of the Kurdish question” as we know it, which emerged out of the hegemony of left-wing intellectuals, helps to understand only a fraction of what is currently going on in the country. “The Kurdish question and the PKK” – an age-old recipe brought to you by the liberal/left discourse – represents a view whose descriptions of the country’s problems are as mediocre as those of the Turkish state and bear no importance whatsoever in the universe of neither Turks nor Kurds. Both ethnic groups’ continued support for Erdoğan, despite his simultaneous opposition to the liberal/left approach and the Turkish state’s outdated perspective, attests to the irrelevance of the aforementioned conceptual framework. Erdoğan states that he “ignores nationalism altogether” and seeks to emphasize “the need for democratization across the board,” as opposed to the Kurdish question.
For years, the liberal/left discourse in Turkey misconstrued the “identity” debate to describe the “Kurdish question” through the Western-informed lens of the distinction between “good” and “bad.” Much like the question itself, they attempted to find answers in the West, including in the “conflict resolution” literature, to no avail. Many who thought themselves to have thought about and worked on the Kurdish question over the years failed to notice that they were really talking about the history of the Kurdish question in an inadequate, misinformed and largely obsolete manner. Today, the emerging peace process has practically undone all the assumptions of the liberal/left discourse. Such great theories went to waste all due to some filthy, hurtful truth!
And what was the truth? Öcalan stated in his March 21 letter that, “there was no Kurdish question but an overall problem of democratization and that Kurds will benefit from Turkey’s steps toward democratization.” Later, he declared the armed struggle to be over due to “Turkey’s recent transformation and changes in the Middle East.” This way, the country skipped through all the various stages of the Western tale of conflict resolution at once. Unable to process this development, the liberal/left discourse responded to the peace process with low-intensity opposition! Had they known, however, the merits of a simple dinner that the people of Anatolia used to cease numerous blood feuds over thousands of years, they would not be so surprised. And they were so shocked that some even went as far as claiming that the PKK and Öcalan had betrayed the Kurds!