A Historic Newroz

A Historic Newroz

The peace process vis-a-vis the Kurdish question has experienced five revolutionary moments so far. At the Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır March 21, I had the chance to witness one of them.

The first revolutionary moment had happened when Prime Minister Erdoğan declared at a rally in Diyarbakır in 2005 that “the Kurdish problem is his problem.” When the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) leader Öcalan announced a ceasefire via his letter at the Newroz celebration in Diyarbakır last year, the second historic moment took place. The other ones were when Prime Minister Erdoğan said “Kurdistan” for the first time during the visit of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani to Diyarbakır last year and when Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu spoke in Kurdish at a forum in Sulaymaniyah two weeks ago.

This Newroz has been the fifth such moment. One of the PKK’s founders, Cemil Bayık, the current co-chair of the KCK (Kurdish Communities Union) which is the urban extension of the PKK, addressed a crowd of about 1.5 million people in the huge Newroz Square in Diyarbakır via a video message. This has been a historic moment in Turkey’s history since this is, for the PKK, far beyond just being a party of the peace process. This marks a transformation from the mountains to civilian squares, from indirect communication to direct communication and from private and secret talks to transparency and publicity.

All of the Kurdish politicians who spoke at the celebration saluted Qandil and didn’t make any political statement, leaving that to Öcalan, whose letter was read both in Kurdish and Turkish. Hence it is more than clear the Kurdish movement is fully united under Öcalan’s name. The politicians have also emphasized the unity of the Kurds living in the four different countries, namely Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran and called on all Kurdish leaders to overcome their differences and develop a common strategy.

There were two messages given at the Newroz celebration in Diyarbakır. The first one is the Kurds’ will for peace. Osman Baydemir, the current mayor of Diyarbakır, emphasized this will when he said that they won’t turn spring into winter and let winter come again. Also, Öcalan’s words in his letter, “We were not afraid while resisting and will not be afraid when making peace,” made it clear that Kurds won’t give up on peace on any account. That the crowd on the square gave the most applause to the calls for peace has been the validation of this.

The second message addressed the government. Öcalan accused the government of acting unilaterally, being too slow and avoiding the legal framework. He called on the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to make the peace talks consistent and binding by putting them into a legal framework. However, he also gave the message that he wants to continue to this process in cooperation with the government.

He said, “The two sides have tested each other’s good intentions and competence and have emerged decisively from this test.” This has also nullified the KCK’s message announced two weeks ago saying the AKP is no longer a party in the ongoing peace process.

The message is clear and strong: Ceasefire, in other words inaction, was a great achievement last year. Yet, inaction is desirable only for the PKK, not for the AKP. The time is up for action.