Who has the control over Turkey’s Kurdish problem?
The recent attack on the Turkish military post near the Iraqi border by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) must have been an awakening for the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government, regarding the initiatives trying to find a solution to country’s painful Kurdish problem. Having claimed more than 40,000 lives in over three decades, it is now by far the biggest problem in Turkey - not only for politicians but for people as well, according to a recent poll by the Sonar research company.
The recent attack showed that the PKK is using the same old tactic to consolidate the impression that it has control over the Kurdish issue. Whenever Turkish governments -however rarely - get close to a sort roadmap toward a solution, a sensational PKK attack manages to destroy it. It is also not a coincidence that the PKK always has at least one large-scale attack on Turkish targets whenever Prime Minister Erdoğan is holding talks with successive U.S. presidents, which always have the subject on their agenda.
The PKK’s message is clear: Do not talk to any other partner, negotiate with me.
That was tried as well. The Turkish government even established direct contact with the PKK. Under Erdoğan’s directives, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) talked to Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned founding leader of the PKK, as well as other representatives abroad throughout 2009 and 2011, in a series of meetings publicly known as the “Oslo talks.” The talks collapsed after a PKK attack killing 13 soldiers near Silvan, Diyarbakır in July 2011, right after the general elections in Turkey in which Erdoğan consolidated his power and became more able to solve problems. The content of the Oslo talks, which were leaked to internet later on, revealed that the parties were very close to reaching an agreement.
In a recent interview, Murat Karayılan, the de facto leader of the PKK based in the Kandil Mountains of Iraq, questioned what would happen to him and other chiefs of the organization who have fought almost all their lives and have done nothing else. Erdoğan says they could go and settle in another country freely after laying down arms and a peaceful solution is reached. But it seems that this is not enough for the PKK leadership.
It seems that the PKK also did not like the approach of the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who suggested that the four parties in Parliament, including the Kurdish problem-focused BDP, should find a solution within legitimate politics. The PKK thinks that it alone is the party to talk to - not the BDP, and not anybody else - just the Turkish state and themselves. They think their terror campaign will eventually solve the problem by further polarizing the country.
But this time it might be slightly different. The latest attack on Dağlıca, claiming the lives of eight Turkish soldiers and more than 30 PKK militants, according to government sources, might have failed to create the usual effect on Turkish politics. Instead of putting the blame on each other, Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu have taken similar stances and called on the PKK to drop their arms. But this does not mean that the PKK has lost the capability of carrying out new attacks, to prove that it is the one controlling the whole flow of the Kurdish issue, and that, unfortunately, might mean more attacks in the near future.