A genuine process or a political move for 2014?
To be frank, the end of the hunger strikes after Abdullah Öcalan – imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – issued a message through his brother was the first signal of what we call today “the new peace process.” Then, we heard a number of government members speaking about Öcalan’s role as a potential cult leader in ending the terror problem and bringing a solution to the Kurdish question.
Then came the mid-December visit of Hakan Fidan, head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), to İmralı Island, where Öcalan is serving a life sentence. However, the process was kicked off after two prominent Kurdish politicians, Ahmet Türk and Ayla Akat Ata, visited Öcalan last week.
A very comprehensive elaboration on the process came from Selahattin Demirtaş yesterday as he addressed the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) group at Parliament. Demirtaş cited a long list of conditions for turning this process into a real negotiation with the ultimate goal of reaching a settlement. Recalling failed attempts of the government to solve the problem in the past, he mentioned the distrust among Kurdish people over the sincerity of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
He said over and over again that they needed to see a more serious and sincere approach from the government, indirectly voicing their concern of whether the AKP could use this process just to secure an environment for consecutive elections in 2014.
Demirtaş’s appreciation of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) for its support to the ongoing process with Öcalan was also noteworthy. Although the two parties differ on many aspects of the process, both are concerned with the sincerity of the government.
And the major reason for their concerns are the growing undemocratic implementations of the government through restricting freedom of expression and oppressing elected Kurdish representatives. BDP sources claim thousands of local politicians have been arrested under the ongoing Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) operations.
What will make an ongoing peace process meaningful, in addition to a sincere and serious negotiation bid, will be the success of the writing process of the new Constitution. A pro-democracy text securing fundamental individual rights and freedoms to each and every citizen regardless of their ethnic background will be the key in cementing an environment of peace and comfort.
The litmus test for all parties is still the new Constitution. The lack of a contemporary charter embracing all individuals in this country will also weaken the prospect of reaching a solution to the Kurdish issue and, of course, to ending terror.
That’s why the process of negotiations with Öcalan and the PKK, the process of writing the new Constitution and Turkey’s EU accession process should proceed simultaneously as each compliments the others. Singling out talks with Öcalan and forgetting about its democratic commitments will further strengthen concerns that the government is using this peace process as a political investment for its 2014 objectives.