How could the PKK’s withdrawal be a successful one?
Today will mark an historic development as around 1,000 armed terrorists will begin to retreat from Turkish territories into northern Iraq as a result of long negotiations between the government and Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Although the PKK militants exercised a complete withdrawal from Turkey in 1999 after Öcalan was captured, today’s process shows a number of differences from the earlier withdrawal.
The most important difference is that this current retreat is taking place as a result of a deal. The second is that it is being introduced as the first leg of a multi-stage road map, which includes democratic reforms and complete disarmament. The accomplishment of the entire resolution process depends on the success of each and every phase.
That’s why, perhaps, the PKK did not accept to drop their weapons before starting to retreat. There is no doubt that some 4,000 to 5,000 armed terrorists just on the other side of the Iraqi border will closely monitor the government’s promise to fulfill consecutive phases.
As today’s issue, however, is to secure a safe exit for the militants, it’s of vital importance for both sides to take all measures to avoid any sort of provocative move.
Selahattin Demirtaş, co-leader of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), who is in the southeastern Anatolian region to observe the current environment on the eve of the withdrawal, stressed that he witnessed that the government already took some additional administrative measures to secure the safe exit of militants. Although the military and other security forces frequently announce that they are doing their job, many in Ankara believe that security forces will either turn a blind eye to the departure of the militants or remain in their barracks not to encounter them.
Regarding the differences between the withdrawal processes of 1999 and 2013, another crucial point is the fact that this has to be followed by substantial reforms to meet the demands of the Kurds and the BDP.
For example, it was Selahattin Demirtaş who recently referred to the “autonomy” as the best remedy to keep the country undivided. Education in one’s mother tongue and the definition of citizenship in the new Constitution are among some very important priorities the BDP is frequently bringing to the agenda. Given the fact that these demands would find their reflections in the new Constitution, the success of the withdrawal process will continue to be closely linked to the constitutional process.
This makes the picture more complicated, however. Although some government officials have voiced that they could cooperate with the BDP for the new charter, a growing debate over the legitimacy of such a text is disturbing the ruling party members. In a recent blow, head of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Ali Alkan, openly urged the government that a text crafted by one or two parties would surely kick off fresh debate over its legitimacy. Such a picture necessitates the ruling party to once again seek cooperation with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).