Turkey’s new Kurdish plan: Back to the future

Turkey’s new Kurdish plan: Back to the future

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey’s new Kurdish plan: Back to the future

Police intervene with protestors during Nevruz. Turning Nevruz into a stage for a Kurdish uprising was among the PKK’s plans, according to the intelligence services. DHA photo

A combination of democratic and security measures stands as the country’s new counter-terrorism strategy, which rules out any sort of dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The plan, which many are calling “back to the future,” raises many question marks due to the government’s seemingly lukewarm commitment to the “Kurdish initiative.” 

Turkey’s new strategy for solving the decades-old Kurdish question places greater responsibility on civilian political means that are supported by the new constitution and dialogue with Kurdish political parties, according to top security officials. It does not, however, envisage negotiations with either the outlawed PKK’s officials in northern Iraq and Europe or its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan. 
According to information obtained by the Hürriyet Daily News from the security forces, the strategy will both put more pressure on the PKK to lay down their weapons while also easing conditions to pave the way to a democratic solution of the Kurdish question. 

“The only tool to solve this problem is to increase our democratic standards. A libertarian approach which would allow legitimate representatives of Kurds and their lawmakers to freely discuss the demands of the Kurds is very important. This can only be done in a peaceful climate, without the fear of the PKK,” an official said. 

The road map also envisages greater responsibility for Parliament, particularly with the new constitution. “Expanding democratic rights and fundamental freedoms and broadening liberties for each and every individual of the Republic of Turkey are the main pillars of this process,” the official said. 

This change in policy came about as the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, increased its activities starting last summer and launched a fresh campaign to spark an unprecedented nationwide conflict between Turks and Kurds. Turning Nevruz into a stage for a Kurdish uprising was among the plans, the intelligence services said, suggesting this was designed to spark a massive reaction among Turks, further igniting Turkish nationalism. 

“They tried this in 2010 and 2011, but they were not successful. We will not allow them to succeed in 2012 either,” an official said, adding that the PKK was also trying to take advantage of the Arab Spring movements for its own ends. 

Dialogue process nixed 

Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) secretly held several rounds of meetings with the PKK in 2009 and 2010, while other state officials met with Öcalan on İmralı island, where he is serving a life sentence. Officials, however, say that instead of pushing the process for a breakthrough, the PKK used this dialogue to gain a more advantageous position against the state.

“Therefore, there won’t be negotiations or dialogue with either the PKK or Öcalan. The talks could only be resumed on the condition that the PKK agrees to lay down its weapons,” an official said. 

The talks with Öcalan especially gave him the impression that he had taken control of the process and that he was using the opportunity for purposes other than finding a settlement, officials said. 

The intelligence analysis proves that the only objective of the PKK is to claim its sovereignty over a piece of land in southeastern Anatolia and to let Öcalan be its main ruler. 

Erdoğan’s message to BDP

Despite the fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan uses very harsh language to address the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and accuses it of being the mouthpiece of the PKK, it is important to read the prime minister’s words from a different angle, officials said. 

“The message the prime minister is delivering is that the BDP is still the government’s main counterpart in dealing with the Kurdish issue. It has been asked to fulfill its responsibility,” an official said. 

“If the BDP sees that their space to make politics expands, then they would really play this role after detaching from the PKK,” an official said.

But the BDP’s co-chairman, Selahattin Demirtaş, downplayed the strategy in a statement yesterday, calling it a new reflection of the government’s unwillingness to boost democratic rights in Turkey. 

Barzani plays a key role 

In this new road map, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masoud Barzani, has a significant role to play, according to officials. Barzani advised a visiting BDP delegation in recent months that Kurds in Turkey should continue their struggle via democratic and political means. 

Following intense talks with the KRG, Turkey expects that Barzani will issue a strong call to the PKK during the Kurdish Conference slated for June for it to end its armed struggle against Turkey and instead launch a political process. This plan is also backed by Washington, which sees Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds as its main allies in the region.

Barzani’s main job is to convince all Kurdish groups to participate in this call on the PKK, a potential development that would leave the militant group isolated from regional Kurdish circles.