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MEHMET ALİ BİRAND > The PKK is also in doubt

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not elaborated very much on the early negotiations so far conducted with İmralı. There are enough details in the media anyway, so we are all playing with these toy block pieces to form a map.

What attracts my attention is the increasingly skeptical view of the Turkish public. First, we applauded with excitement; then the number of those saying “Wait a little, let’s see where it goes. Are we being tricked into playing a game?” increased.

Everybody is right from their own point of view. Remember how the previous ceasefires were blocked and how the other peace initiatives were sabotaged. Now, this time people are “once burnt, twice shy.” They want to be cautious because the other side cannot be trusted.

Actually, there are some who are in even more doubt. Their situation is even more difficult, as they especially remember the famous withdrawal in 1999 and opt to be twice shy, having once been burnt.

I’m talking about the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) recruits.

In 1999, jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan ordered all of his armed men to “withdraw across the border.”
They immediately packed and hit the road. However, they encountered an unexpected situation. Although they thought it would be easy to retreat, they found Turkish security forces blocking their roads. Even though such a guarantee had not been given to them, they were not expecting the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to chase them from behind while a peaceful step was being taken. However, the stance of the military was as follows: “When I come across an illegally armed unit on my land, I take action.”

As a matter of fact, the 1999 withdrawal transformed into an operation in which the PKK suffered extremely important losses. There were major reactions within the organization, but because it had been the leader’s orders the raised voices went down in a short while.

But, it was not forgotten.

Now, both in the camps in the Kandil Mountains and in the PKK groups inside Turkey with arms in their hands, there is an extremely anxious wait. Even if you don’t monitor the media, you can easily imagine these concerns and suspicions.

It must be much more difficult to convince the youth in the mountain, whose only guarantee is the weapon in his hand. Probably, they have the same question circling in their minds all the time: “Will the security forces open fire on the withdrawing guerilla as it did last time, or will it give assurances not to open fire?”

Mutual distrust has reached such a level that even the simplest step to be taken needs to be calculated thoroughly.

For this reason, as doubtful as the Turkish public is, the PKK is even more skeptical than us. They do not have a strong force they can rely on, nor do they have anywhere else to go other than the mountains.

I’m not writing these words to raise sympathy for the PKK. I’m explaining this so it may help us see in advance the difficulties we may face early in the talks.

If we want peace, we should be tolerant of those words and those demands that we do not like.

January/11/2013

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