The astonishment of ‘what is happening?’

The astonishment of ‘what is happening?’

Four terrorists were killed in Siirt’s Baykan district on Sept. 23; three terrorists were killed in Şırnak’s Beytüşşebap district Sept. 29; 35 between Oct. 19 and 26 in Şırnak’s Kazan-Kavaklı area; three on Nov. 1 in Van’s Çatak district; one on Nov. 12 in Hatay’s Amanos Mountains; 27 between Dec. 5 and 23 on Şırnak’s Cudi Mountain; two on Dec. 25 in Bingöl’s Karlıova district; and 135 during air operations on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) camps in northern Iraq.

A total of 210 terrorists were killed while 48 were apprehended wounded. Regarding the shortness of the intervals between operations and the number of terrorists neutralized, it can be said we are going through a period when security forces are at their most effective point. 


As a matter of fact, these operations jointly conducted with the military and police, carried out one after the other, have led to “astonishment.” The question of the day is, “What is happening and how come such successful operations are being carried out?” Another reaction evident together with astonishment is expressed as, “wow, are we returning to the 1990s?” 

The reason for the “astonishment” is the change in the mood that saw the PKK as “the righteous and superior one.” The situation from the famous entrance from the Habur border gate up until the elections was the opposite of what we are witnessing now.

It was the PKK that declared cease-fires or lifted them. The government, for the sake of winning elections, was either putting up with it or trying to extend the cease-fire. When the PKK lifted the cease-fire, it was able to attack the military, police and civilian people whenever and wherever it wished. All sorts of reasons justifying terror were discussed in the media. 

The PKK and the state looked as if they had negotiated, and at the negotiation table it seemed as if the PKK was looking down on the state and trying to impose conditions. The police and the military were passive, waiting for the PKK to attack them in their defensive positions. It looked as if statesmen were shuttling between İmralı and Kandil and thus trying to reach a “compromise.” This image was reflected as if there was an atmosphere that the PKK had prevailed even in politics, making the state come to the negotiating table and it was time they reaped the fruits of their victory. 


Reactions to the current picture are emerging very differently to the above. For example, “This cannot be solved with this approach, the operations must stop, are we going back to the 1990s?”
Assessing this reaction in terms of operations, it begs the question, if there is a PKK camp in a valley, why do you go and strike it? What do you want from terrorists in camps and caves waiting for the winter to pass? Why do you, for no reason, apprehend so many armed men and so many weapons and ammunition? What harm did the shelter in rural Maraş do to you? What is it to you if the shelter has three rooms and a large lobby and satellite phone? Another question is, “What has happened?” The reply to this question can be “whatever has happened has happened within the political authority.” The change is a change in the policies of the political authority. 

The source of the picture of the previous era and the source of the recent image both lie in the political authority’s change of policies. During the period starting with the initiative and extending up until the elections, the political authority seemed to be in “doubt.” There was an uncertain air as to whether they would make a deal at the negotiating table with the PKK or meet the PKK’s demands regarding the constitution. Would autonomy be given, or would there be a referendum? There was no coordinated effort between the police and the military; it was not known who gathered intelligence for whom and how it was used. It looked as if the military and the police had, for a long time, abandoned the concept of zone domination and this domination had been left to the PKK. Now, it appears the opposite is the case.

This picture shows that whatever has happened, it has happened at the perception of the political authority. 

Cancel out? 

Indeed, it is not correct to assume the PKK will be negated, looking at the results of these latest operations. This is reiterated by the topmost security officials. The main aim is to marginalize the PKK’s activity capacity and skills; however, both the political authority and the security forces do not expect to negate the PKK with these operations. In spite of this, it is one matter for the PKK and its political representatives to confront the political authority with an effective armed force behind them. It is yet another matter for them to have such a confrontation when this threat is lacking. Obviously this is the new governmental policy. 

Fikret Bila is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece appeared Dec 28. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.