Peace ‘piroz be!’

Peace ‘piroz be!’

There are many things that can be said about March 21’s Newroz in Diyarbakır. Almost all of what I will be saying will be positive. Because:

- There was a huge crowd compared to previous years, in other words, the Kurds had totally perceived the historic significance of this meeting.

- The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and Democratic Society Congress (DTK), which organized the event, were more careful and attentive.

- PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s letter was better beyond expectations (at least my expectations) and was positive and constructive.

- The crowd that did not react too much to the Kurdish version of the letter read by Pervin Buldan became exuberant when Sırrı Süreyya Önder’s read the letter in Turkish, strikingly showing both the authority of Öcalan and also the existing intertwinement in Turkey.

Closing the parenthesis

We can summarize the main call in Öcalan’s letter as such: “Let’s put a parenthesis around the last 90 years of the relationship between the Turks and the Kurds; let’s close the parenthesis today. Let’s insert the former spirit into the concept of ‘us.’ From now on, let’s continue our road altogether like it was 90 years ago, for example as it was during Gallipoli and the Liberation War.”

It is a sign that many things have changed in Turkey – and will change even more so – that a name who has been damned as a “separatist” for years stood up and said, “This is not the time for controversy and conflict; it is time for alliances, embracing and blessings,” before going even further to say, “Unite against those who want to separate us, who want to cause our disintegration.”

There is one more in a series of messages that Öcalan has given, all of them extremely critical. Even his emphasis on the need to absolutely end the armed struggle now while presenting it as “a soft instruction” were enough to make March 21’s Newroz celebrations historic. Besides, his proposal that Turks and Kurds jointly create a new modernity in the Middle East – effectively an alternative to the West – should not be neglected.

Margins of safety

Of course not everybody has a positive view like me. For example I have seen many of my colleagues privately voice several versions of this highly popular question: “What will Kurds get in return for laying down arms?” However, I have not witnessed this type of questioning in people at various levels of the Kurdish political movement, especially in down-to-earth Kurds participating in Newroz because they trust Öcalan, if not the state. In other words, we can say that some people are concerned with Kurds’ concerns more than the Kurds are themselves.

There are also reactions coming from the Turkish public. There was almost nothing to bother the Turks in Öcalan’s letter; on the contrary, it could be seen that their pride and honor were meticulously protected. Only, this time, the question “Why was there no Turkish flag in the square?” was brought forward. I have covered many Newroz celebrations in the same square and there was never a Turkish flag in any of them, but this was also never a topic for serious complaint. The presentation of the lack of a Turkish flag yesterday as a grave incident comes across as a futile effort by those who are seriously annoyed by the historic significance of March 21’s Newroz.

Indeed, there are those good-willed people who point out that “But this time there is a call for peace,” and they could have a just point, but we need to be clear: Who can expect a rather dirty war that has been going on for more than 30 years to come to an end immediately through steps taken by one side only?

If the disarmament of the PKK and a lasting solution to the Kurdish issue are desired, those who are bigger in numbers should quit acting arrogantly and expecting everything from the Kurds. Because nobody won this war, and nobody has lost it; in other words, nobody is imposing any conditions on the other.

Diyarbakır’s Newroz Square echoed on March 21 with the chants of “Newroz piroz be!” (Happy Newroz). We want to end our article with, “Peace piroz be!” (Happy Peace). Yes, the rebuilding of peace by Turks and Kurds has started, and it looks as though nobody will be able to stop it.

Ruşen Çakır is a columnist for daily Vatan in which this piece was published on March 22. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.