For better or for worse, today will be remembered
Today is a very important day for Turks, for Kurds and for peace in Turkey. The funeral ceremony of the three Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) activists, Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Söylemez, who were killed in Paris on Jan. 10, will take place today in Diyarbakır before the bodies are sent to their hometowns for burial.
Tens of thousands – some say hundreds of thousands – of Kurds are expected to attend the ceremony, during which not just sorrow but also anger, frustration and determination will be expressed by those thronging to the Bayramoğlu Mosque in Diyarbakır’s Bağlar district.
Posters of Abdullah Öcalan, the head of the PKK who is serving a life sentence in Turkey, will be carried alongside PKK banners, while angry slogans will be hurled at the Turkish state, government, police and military. Meanwhile, accusations that the Turkish government is the perpetrator of the Paris murders will be repeated, even though senior PKK activists are also saying now that this is unlikely.
Not just ultranationalists, but many ordinary Turks too will feel anger in the face of all this, given the large number of soldiers and civilians who have lost their lives in PKK violence over the past year, let alone over the past 30 years. The opposition, on the other hand, will try to score political points for itself from the events that transpire today.
There is, therefore, a very large responsibility befalling on not just the government but also the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which many see as the political wing of the PKK in Parliament, even though this is not strictly correct. The key words here for everyone concerned with peace are therefore “caution” and “restraint.”
The bottom line is that today’s developments, whether are positive or negative, will determine the course that the ongoing peace talks between the government and the PKK take, perhaps much more than the actual murders in Paris. Despite the horror of that event, a positive result has been that the government, the PKK leadership, and the BDP have all indicated views suggesting that this as a provocation aimed at derailing the current peace talks. This shows that there is a desire for these talks to continue. This is why the police - which all too readily, and almost with relish, reaches for the pepper spray and the rubber baton against Kurds, left-wing students, workers, civil servants, or demonstrating environmentalists - must stay its hand. So must the air force, which has in the past engaged in pointless intimidation with low altitude flights over the crowds at PKK funerals and demonstrations by Kurds.
The BDP, for its part, will have to ensure that hot-headed young Kurdish militants at the funeral do not go on their usual rampage. It is clear that this party’s importance will continue to increase in the search for peace, so it too has a stake in what will transpire today.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also recognized this during a speech to his parliamentary group yesterday, when he indicated that the BDP’s political path would be opened once the PKK puts aside its weapons. He appeared to be suggesting that the BDP would have greater scope to promote its political cause once the PKK problem is solved.
Erdoğan also cautioned against provocations during the funeral ceremony for the murdered women, and used strong language to indicate that his government would continue with the peace talks with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, regardless of the hurdles placed by those wanting to end the process.
“Even if we are left alone we have not and will not turn back from this path. With God’s permission, and the support and good prayers of our people, we will overcome all provocations and sabotage attempts and, God willing, we will complete this project,” he said.
Without discriminating between sides, Erdoğan also reached out to the mothers on both sides who have lost, or risk losing, their children.
“On the one side we have our heroic Mehmet’s (the term used for conscripts in Turkey) being martyred, and on the other we have the terrorist on the mountain who is put out of commission. But the fire falls into the same hearth, the same pain burns hearts, the tears fall on the same ground. Regardless of which address the bullet goes to, it is the mothers who cry in the end,” he said emotionally.
We are at a moment where everyone must behave as they speak. Prime Minister Erdoğan is in a good position to do so having received a strong mandate from the public in the last elections. The BDP, on the other hand, emerged as the main choice of the Kurds in those elections and is therefore also poised to play an important role in this process.
Everyone must keep in mind that today will be a day to remember for Turks and for Kurds, whether it turns out to be a good or a bad day.