Turkish ruling party takes IRA lessons in Kurdish peace bid
NURAY BABACAN ANKARAThe ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) sent five deputies to Northern Ireland in June to compile a report on how Turkey could learn from the U.K.’s peace process with the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The report comes amid the Turkish government’s long-stalled process to end the decades-old conflict between the Turkish army and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and focused on the social rehabilitation of militants and their return home.
Last year, the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan announced a ceasefire, capping months of talks between him and the state. The first stage of the peace process was the ceasefire and the militants’ withdrawal from the country. However, there was criticism, especially from Kurdish politicians, that the second stage, which would lay the legal foundations of the peace process, has yet to start.
According to the report, which was prepared after speaking to Northern Irish politicians as well as members of non-governmental organizations, the most crucial stage to in the peace process was the laying down of arms.
“The most crucial process is the laying down of arms,” the report said. “Reciprocal insecurity is the most important obstacle in front of the laying down of arms.”
It said unionists in Northern Ireland had refused to talk with those who are deemed “terrorists,” as they continued to refuse to lay down their arms as the primary condition for negotiations. Supporters of the IRA, however, claimed they would not lay down their arms until an agreement was reached, in the belief that they would be weaker if they did.
However, as for the second stage in Northern Ireland, freedom for those who were convicted and arrested, a policy of transparency, a reform of the police and the judicial system were advised.
“At the end of this process, which was dubbed a return to home and participation to politics, freed convicts entered politics to become party leaders or deputies,” the report said. “We met with some of them and evaluated that they have made serious contribution to the peace process and the societal integration after.”
The report recalled that the IRA had announced a ceasefire in 1994 and that the two sides signed the “Good Friday Agreement” in 1998, but it only laid down its arms in 2005, when it called on its volunteers to use “exclusively peaceful means.”
“That’s why peace and an end to violence should be viewed as a process. This is a very difficult and labored process that needs to be continued calmly and cautiously. Societal and political pressure should be taken into consideration, but should be avoided if they are damaging the process,” the report added.
It also claimed that the differences between Turks and Kurds are “not as deep-rooted” as those in Northern Ireland had been.
“There is no perception or view of a divided community [in Turkey]. On the contrary, the two communities are part of the same group of beliefs and values, and have 1,000 years of shared history. That is an advantage for us,” the report stated.