Action Plan far from addressing root causes of Kurdish issue

Action Plan far from addressing root causes of Kurdish issue

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu unveiled on Feb. 5 a 10-article action plan aiming to provide public order on one hand and boost socio-economic conditions in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern provinces on the other, meaning the government will try to deal with the economic and social root causes of violence in the country while security forces continue to fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

The much-anticipated plan was publicized in the southeastern province of Mardin at Artuklu University by Davutoğlu, who said he will visit Kahramanmaraş, another eastern town, next on Feb. 12 as part of what he called “the fraternity gathering.” This can be interpreted as Davutoğlu making sure this issue is one of his priorities in the short- and mid-term as the fight against the PKK continues. 

This column on Feb. 2 suggested Turkey’s fight against terror could take much longer than anticipated and the plan announced on Feb. 5 contains aspects that support this opinion. The implementation of this Action Plan will likely center on the government’s overall policies with regard to the problems of Kurds living in this part of the country, with a full emphasis on the fight against terror at the expense of ignoring the need to address the social, cultural and political demands of Kurdish citizens living all around Turkey. 

In line with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s categorical denial of the existence of the Kurdish question, the plan never mentioned how to respond to the political and democratic demands of Kurds.

Davutoğlu outlined these 10 articles but did not explain what they referred to or how they would be implemented. Keeping this in mind, let’s go through these articles:

The first suggests Turkey is about to enter a human-oriented psychological process that will remove the distance between the state and the people. This is something Davutoğlu has long been saying and has no particular importance within the scope of this plan.    

The second article is about public order, a concept government officials have more frequently voiced in the aftermath of the incidents of Oct. 6-7, 2014, during which Kurds protested the government for not lending support to Syrian Kurds in Kobane fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Davutoğlu said attempts to break public order will be eliminated, citing not only the PKK but also all other terrorist groups.   

The third article is about democratic reform, as Davutoğlu referred to the beginning of work to rewrite the constitution. The prime minister called on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to sincerely contribute and to voice all of their opinions within this context, meaning there will be no separate process or mechanism to address their demands. 

The fourth is about the social rehabilitation of locals who have suffered of PKK terrorism and left their homes due to growing insecurity. 

The fifth is about the economic rehabilitation of local enterprises, farmers and tradesmen suffering from the recent incidents. 

The sixth is the need to rehabilitate regional towns and provincial districts, something the public opinion has been broadly discussing after Davutoğlu compared the Sur district of southeastern Diyarbakır province with the Spanish town of Toledo. 

The establishment of communication units by local administrations in order to avoid the spread of misinformation and misperceptions constitute the seventh article. 

The eighth article seems to be important but requires more information for a good assessment can be made. It suggests expanding the authorities given to local administrations but with safeguards to avoid the abuse of these authorities. According to initial information we have, this article is designed to shrink the authorities pledged to greater municipalities and municipalities in order to prevent local HDP governors from helping the PKK. 

The following article suggests the establishment of consultation mechanisms in the region and in every town that will bring officials and civilians together to discuss the problems of the region in what the government calls “the national unity and fraternity era.” Davutoğlu said no armed group or its affiliates will be taken as counterparts in this process, meaning they will not launch talks with either the PKK or the HDP. In earlier remarks, the prime minister has stated the negotiation table will not be at İmralı Island but in Ankara, meaning the PKK’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, will not play any role in this process.  

The last article needs a rather better explanation from governmental sources, as it suggests the mobilization of a unifying spirit in the Middle East, Balkans and Caucasus. With Davutoğlu’s words, the fraternity understanding will be put to the forefront within the context of this plan without detailing how this could be possible under Turkey’s current foreign policy lines. 

As seen, this plan is far from targeting and eradicating the root causes of the Kurdish problem. It’s rather a plan to reinforce security-oriented measures to end PKK terrorism in the region no matter how long it takes. Efforts to help the local people’s economic and social rehabilitation are significant and need to be supported but they should be accompanied with a set of measures to provide what Davutoğlu suggested earlier, “sustainable comfort.” 

These measures should include the start of a genuine, inclusive and goal-oriented dialogue with relevant actors, including all political parties in parliament, to directly address the core of this issue, the Kurdish question, as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) had done between 2011 and 2015.