The Kurdish saga

The Kurdish saga

Human history has long provided texts for the justification of the powerful and the victorious and the criminalization of the weak and the defeated. After the writing of history was subjected to a more critical eye, historians could not avoid reversing the whole story to justify the weak and the defeated. In fact, armed struggles of all sorts – be they wars, rebellions or revolts – have always had their dark sides.

The Kurdish armed struggle under the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has long been criminalized in many ways, and the roots of the revolt have long been ignored by the Turkish state/governments and mainstream media. Besides, enmity toward Kurdish political actors contributed to the vilification of the PKK. That is why it came to be “politically incorrect” to question the Kurdish armed struggle, as in many other examples of supporting rebellion movements in different countries. As a result, there emerged no space to discuss Kurdish politics without either defining it as “terror” or recognizing it as “righteous rebellion” for which the ends always justify the means. 

After the Turkish government recently launched an extensive military operation against the PKK, it may sound unfair to be critical of Kurdish politics. Nevertheless, we urgently need to begin an honest debate now more than ever, since an armed conflict started this time immediately after both the Turkish government/state and the Kurdish political body agreed to engage in a peace process and the Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), achieved an election victory. After all, we need to know what went wrong in the way of peace and why they changed “strategy.”

When I asked this question previously, I could not come across any convincing answers other than mutual accusations. Ultimately, it seems that either the conflict spiraled out of the control of both actors, or it is a new strategy of “restrained confrontation” as it is defined and/or implied by respective actors, namely the government/state and the Kurdish political body. First of all, what they call strategy is a curse, since “restrained confrontation” can only mean lower rates of death on both sides or “managed killings.”

Some journalists/columnists who echo the government politics have started to give hints about this so-called strategy. One stated that, “the government will start the process after operations weaken the PKK,” (Erdinç Yazıcı, Hürriyet), while another informed us that “the [PKK leader Abdullah] Öcalan will intervene at some point, but not yet,’ (Abdülkadir Selvi, Yeni Şafak, Sept. 2). And finally another one, after talking with high-ranking government politicians, divulged “the good news” that “the process will continue” and this time the Kurdish party will have no role as Öcalan will lead the process (Verda Özer, Hürriyet, Sept. 5). 

We have been informed that Öcalan has been disturbed by the HDP, accuses it of political failure and does not share the HDP’s opposition to the presidential system. It is difficult to understand why Öcalan finds the HDP unsuccessful after an election victory, but it makes sense that he may be disturbed by the HDP’s opposition to the presidential system. From the beginning, there has been skepticism concerning the Kurdish political body about “a deal over the presidential system,” and that is why the HDP needed to underline its opposition.

Now, it may be that Öcalan still considers a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and vice versa. Then, it may not at be all surprising to see that all of the government, the armed wing and Öcalan are targeting HDP to exclude it from the Kurdish deal. Nothing is clear yet, and is difficult to assume that the PKK’s leader may be willing to exclude or weaken the HDP, since the party was his own project. 

Is it then that the PKK may disagree with the HDP as is claimed by some in that the armed wing does not want peaceful politics, which would sideline it, meaning Öcalan has nothing to do with it? But is it possible that Öcalan would have nothing to do with such a big division within Kurdish politics? What if it may also be a strategy of Öcalan to consider returning to negotiations with a weakened PKK which will be less of an obstacle in the way of a peace deal? He has previously made calls to the PKK, to fight if they think they have enough power, when the PKK seemed to take a hard line.

For ordinary folk like us, it is difficult to find answers to these questions, but what they owe the ordinary folk is peace, not a curse which is defined as a strategy. Both sides owe us democratic politics as they promised at the outset, not dirty political games which are being played over the dead bodies of Turkish and Kurdish youth.