Nevruz to mark a new milestone over Kurdish peace process: Turkey
AA PhotoThis year’s Nevruz, the annual festival celebrated on March 21 to mark the beginning of spring particularly in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast Anatolia region, will mark a milestone in the ongoing Kurdish peace process, a senior government official has said.
“I think the Nevruz will mark a milestone in this process. In Nevruz, hopefully, we will burn the violence, clashes and weapons in the fire of democracy and we will altogether jump over the fire of democracy,” Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan said during a meeting with businesspersons and industrialists from the southeastern Anatolian region March 11.
Akdoğan’s statement came just hours before a key meeting on the peace process under the leadership of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and with the participation of the intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, who returned to his job after he withdrew his application to run for parliament from the ranks of the ruling party.
This year’s Nevruz is expected to mark another turning point as part of the Kurdish peace process, just like the one that took place in 2013 when Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), issued a call to PKK militants to begin a political struggle for the rights of Kurds. Öcalan issued another message a few weeks ago, calling on the PKK to hold a congress in the spring to discuss permanently laying down their arms, while, on the other side, calling on the government to do its own share in meeting the expectations of the Kurdish political movement.
Citing the Feb. 28 joint statement issued by the government and the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) that significantly emphasized the disarmament of militants, Akdoğan underlined that democracy in Turkey had matured enough to resolve all manners of problems. “Believing in democracy is the foundation of everything. There is no darkness if we have light. The democracy is the light that ends darkness. There is no place for weapons if democracy exists. But if there are weapons, then there is no belief in democracy,” he said.
During the same hours, in a speech delivered at a meeting with university rectors, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also touched upon the same point. “The terrorist organization’s announcement saying that it will lay down the arms will be an important threshold which will foster the construction of democracy, law, justice, confidence and stability in our country. This doesn’t happen only through words. I hope that these recent developments will come to fruition.”
Meanwhile, Akdoğan urged civil society and everybody to contribute to the resolution of this problem, while also reassuring that nothing would be hidden from the public opinion throughout the peace process. “We are running this process with the support and consent of our people. The rooted steps can be put into place through the will of the parliament. That means nothing can be hidden from the parliament either. Everybody should be assured of it. The new constitution will create an important ground for the resolution of our chronic problems.”
‘Better with audible, visual message from Öcalan’
HDP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Pervin Buldan, also a frequent visitor to Öcalan as part of a delegation from the Kurdish political movement, said her group would ask the government to ensure that Öcalan’s next message to be relayed in Diyarbakır on Nevruz be visual, or at least audio, Buldan told Doğan News Agency. “This is the demand of the people. From now on, we want Mr. Öcalan himself to address the masses and the people.”
According to Buldan, such a message would also create a positive atmosphere for progress in the government-led peace process, which the government prefers to call the resolution process, aimed at ending the three-decade-long conflict between the PKK and Turkey’s security forces.
‘No congress without Öcalan’
Ahead of the messages delivered by the head of the state and the government, a warning was released from the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq where the PKK headquarters is located.
Laying down arms without personally meeting with Öcalan is “out of the question,” said Cemil Bayık, co-chair of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), a supra organization that includes the PKK, in an interview aired on March 10.
“Laying down arms will be out of question before [Öcalan] comes and attends the congress and gathers with the guerillas. We are co-chairs, even us; we cannot do it,” Bayık told the İMC TV channel.
“Giving a realistic look, conditions for the conduct of the resolution process ‘outside’ have not been prepared. Our leadership [Öcalan] will conduct the process from İmralı as the chief negotiator. But if we are going to hold a congress, our leadership needs to address this congress,” Bayık said.
‘Driver of this process is the AKP’
The driver of the Kurdish peace process is the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, meaning it will gain momentum if the party gains more power in June 7 elections, Akdoğan said.
The making of a new constitution will also be easier if the party gains more seats, he said. “Therefore, what is important is how powerful the AK Parti is as the engine of this process rather than other parties. Everybody should perfectly understand this, I think.”
Support from the Iraqi regional government
In the meantime, the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) issued a written statement to express its support for Turkey’s ongoing Kurdish peace process. Safeen Dizai, spokesperson of the KRG, cited their contentment over the developments as part of the peace process, in a written statement, and underlined their readiness to provide cooperation to this end.
“The Kurdistan region has been supporting the peace and resolution process from the very beginning. And it will continue to do so. We are ready for any sort of assistance and cooperation for the success of the process. The Kurdistan region will not hesitate to play its role on this issue,” he said.