Who will lose if Kurdish peace process fails?
The first attempt to resolve the Kurdish problem, known as the Oslo Process, was secretly launched in 2009, but failed after talks between the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and senior leaders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were leaked onto the Internet in 2011. Talks were carried out under the monitoring of a third party for some time, but were far from yielding a meaningful result, as both sides were not adequately prepared for a solution.
The government used the unilateral cease-fire declared by the PKK to its advantage ahead of the 2011 elections where it adopted a very strong nationalist language, bashing Kurdish political parties.
The process at the time failed to bring about a common language, confidence between the two parties and public support, which is important for this sort of major social and political problem.
The second – and ongoing – attempt began in late 2012 as then-Prime Minister, now President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan disclosed that the MİT was in talks with the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, and that he would also be allowed to meet with a delegation of Kurdish politicians in person. The withdrawal of PKK militants from Turkey to northern Iraq was the first stage of the process that ultimately sought a full disarmament of the PKK at the end of lengthy negotiations.
Among many others, there have been two very important developments throughout the course of the process. One was Öcalan’s call on his PKK fellows to pursue the political struggle for their rights. The second was the involvement of Masoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and one of the strongest Kurdish leaders in the region, in the process. Barzani’s engagement in the process gave a certain impetus to the government’s efforts to deal with the problem, but it also gave the process a regional outlook, although the government has insistently described it as a national project.
Throughout the process, Öcalan seemed to consolidate his role, as he was introduced as a troubleshooter at the expense of casting a shadow on the Kurdish political parties represented at Parliament. The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which has now been renamed as the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) remained under the influence of both the PKK and Öcalan. Today, there are expectations that Öcalan will appear once again as the main figure of the process and will pull the strings to put things back on track.
However, today’s situation is too complicated and fragile to think that Öcalan alone can fix the process. The political environment is rapidly being dragged into an impasse because of continuous violent acts that need to be openly and firmly denounced by all political actors. It’s true that the process is far from yielding the results that had been foreseen for today, but the continued support of the people for these talks should not be underestimated.
The government, the Kurdish political groups inside and outside Turkey, and opposition parties, should be well aware that the collapse of the peace process would inflict a huge blow on this country.
The responsibility not to drag this country into a fresh wave of violence is all on their shoulders. Turkey and its people would be the main loser in the event that they do not shoulder this responsibility.