Dangerous escalation of tension in Turkey’s Kurdish bid

Dangerous escalation of tension in Turkey’s Kurdish bid

The frequency of ups and downs in the talks between Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), aiming for a possible political settlement of the Kurdish problem, is on the rise.

It is not only the ongoing row between Prime Minister Davutoğlu and Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which shares similar grassroots with the PKK. It is true that the recent trading of barbs over new security measures submitted to Parliament is the most visible part of the tension, but it is only one part.

The main part of the tension is about whether the sides can reach a settlement before the general elections, scheduled for June 7, 2015.

Davutoğlu and President Tayyip Erdoğan, who initiated the talks in 2012 back when he was prime minister, place high priority on the fact that the bloodshed, which claimed 40,000 lives in the PKK’s armed campaign from 1984 to 2012, must not start again. That includes concerns about seeing new funerals of soldier and policemen before the upcoming elections.

Spotting that soft belly of the government, the PKK wants a solution to be concluded before the election, suspecting that after the vote the government may shift back to security-oriented policies.

Murat Karayılan, a leading military figure of the PKK, said in a recent interview that the AK Parti had “stalled” for the last few elections, and the PKK did not want to watch the same old movie again.

An HDP delegation consisting of MPs who had visited PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in the İmralı Island Prison, south of Istanbul, had travelled to the PKK headquarters in the Kandil Mountains of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) territory to convey a “solution draft” to the PKK heads there.

Demirtaş, who was in Brussels yesterday, Dec. 10, for an international conference, took the same draft to the diplomatic and financial wing based there.

Sırrı Süreyya Önder, an HDP deputy taking an active role in the talks between Öcalan and the PKK, said in Parliament yesterday that the draft including a proposal of “autonomy” for the Kurds.

This was a draft penned through negotiations with the government via the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Actually, it was supposed to be made public with a call by Öcalan to the PKK to cease all actions in early September. But with the stepped up attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the Kurdish-populated Syrian town of Kobane, near the Turkish border, interrupted this. When the HDP and the PKK made a call to take to the streets against the government, the protests turned violent, ending with over 40 deaths on Oct. 6-7. Davutoğlu had to ask Öcalan to issue a call to stop the protests, which he did.

The recent “security” package by the government gives additional power to the police and courts, and also introduces new limitations on mass protests. When Demirtaş said they would take to the streets again to resist the bill, Davutoğlu said he would hold the HDP co-head responsible for every possible loss of life in such an event.

Meanwhile, Hülya Oran, aka Besê Hozat, a new generation PKK leader currently co-heading the PKK’s popular front, the KCK, wrote in her column in daily Özgür Gündem, on Dec. 10 - surely after being briefed by the HDP delegation in Kandil - that the PKK would “abide by the draft, if the government also will.”

“If the government again tries to victimize the efforts of Öcalan based on their simple election calculations, the Kurds will have no choice but to determine their own future,” she added. In PKK terminology, that means resuming the armed campaign. “Öcalan’s message to both the government and to Kandil is that he has no patience left,” Hozat also wrote.

Despite reciprocal threats, there are some, both on the HDP and on the government side, who believe there is still room to maneuver. If amendments are made to the security bill in Parliament, a way out of the crisis could still be found.