In light of tragic mur­ders, PKK and Turk­ish state must hold firm to unique peace pas­sage

The Kurdish Globe - - COMMENT & ANALYSIS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

In the same vain as pre­vi­ous hopes and ini­tia­tives to end Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party (PKK) hos­til­i­ties and re­solve Turkey’s age old Kur­dish dilemma, any step for­ward has of­ten been met with two steps back. The Turk­ish fail­ure to ac­knowl­edge its Kur­dish re­al­ity and its in­stance on a mil­i­tary so­lu­tion has left this dilemma in some­what of a vi­cious cy­cle. An in­sur­gency near­ing al­most 3 decades, deaths of over 40,000, the de­struc­tion of vil­lages, not to men­tion the bil­lions of dol­lars of mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture and the con­sid­er­able po­lar­i­sa­tion of Kurds and Turks, tells its own story.

Pre­vi­ous at­tempts at achiev­ing elu­sive peace with the PKK were thwarted by Turk­ish na­tion­al­ists un­mov­ing on Ke­mal­ist ide­ol­ogy and out-dated poli­cies, and Kur­dish rebels un­will­ing to back down on what they saw as min­i­mal de­mands.

It is no sur­prise that with the prospect of peace grow­ing be­tween the Turk­ish government and the PKK and the an­nounce­ment in the Turk­ish me­dia of an agreed roadmap be­tween im­pris­oned PKK leader Ab­dul­lah Ocalan and the Turk­ish in­ter­locu­tors, a great cloud was quickly placed on the talks by the tragic as­sas­si­na­tion of Sakine Can­sız in Paris, one of the found­ing mem­bers of the PKK, along with two col­leagues, Fi­dan Doğan and Leyla Söyle­mez.

Any re­cent air of op­ti­mism or aura of hope was quickly over­shad­owed by the cold-hearted mur­ders as sen­ti­ments soon turned to anger, mourn­ing and out­rage.

While the ques­tion of the cul­pa­ble and the mo­tives be­hind the killings nat­u­rally dom­i­nate the topic, the tim­ing of the in­ci­dents speaks vol­umes. Whether in­sti­gated within the PKK or by Turk­ish na­tion­al­ist wings, the end goal is the same, to dis­rupt and de­rail the peace process.

Un­suc­cess­ful Oslo based talks be­tween the Turk- ish In­tel­li­gence Ser­vices (MIT) and the PKK were shrouded with an el­e­ment of se­crecy, but the fact that the lat­est ini­tia­tive to break the deadly stale­mate was openly dis­cussed and ac­knowl­edged by Turk­ish of­fi­cials, of­fered fresh hope and sig­nalled that Turkey was will­ing to present true over­tures and so­lu­tions this time and not just rhetoric.

Be­hind the scenes, Turkey will have al­ways known that cut­ting the branches of the Kur­dish strug­gle would have been fruit­less with­out cut­ting the root. How­ever, Turkey re­mained ob­sti­nate on its out-dated ide­olo­gies and could not dif­fer­en­ti­ate the Kur­dish prob­lem from what it deemed as a ter­ror­ist prob­lem.

The armed strug­gle may have been a tool that has al­lowed the Kurds a voice at the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble, but it has failed to adapt to geopo­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties. In the midst of the Arab Spring, grass­roots of democ­racy in the Mid­dle East and a rapidly chang­ing na­tional and strate­gic out­look for the Kurds, the cli­mate has dras­ti­cally shifted.

Kurds have new tools and new ways to pro­mote their cause and Turkey can fail to lis­ten at its peril. The Iraqi Kurds, now key strate­gic po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic part­ners of Turkey, have new­found promi­nence and prac­ti­cal in­de­pen­dence while the Syr­ian Kurds are af­forded op­por­tu­ni­ties that were un­think­able merely a few years ago.

The ad­mis­sion by French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande that he had reg­u­lar con­tact with one of the slain, much to the dis­may of Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, res­onates loudly. The Turk­ish Kurds whether of­fi­cially or not, en­joy rel­a­tively good sup­port from the Euro­pean com­mu­ni­ties. The PKK may be on the EU black­list, but no doubt Euro­pean politi­cians in some form or an­other have sym­pha­sised with their cause, if not their tac­tics. Sim­ply put, the Kurds have more than a strong diplo­matic plat­form now to lay down their arms and end un­nec­es­sary vi­o­lence.

Peace, a res­o­lu­tion to the Kur­dish ques­tion and a true rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween Kurds and Turks can only serve both na­tions and the greater good of Turkey.

The Kurds have come a long way and must seize the ini­tia­tive as much as Turkey must match in­tent with prac­ti­cal deeds and real com­pro­mise. Half­hearted mea­sures suit no side, and any de­lay to the peace process will merely mean more years of fight­ing and an even­tual re­turn to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble.

Whether to­day or to­mor­row, the Kurds and Turks have no choice but to sit down and en­ter di­a­logue. Any­thing else sim­ply de­lays the in­evitable.

The tragic death of Sakine Can­sız and oth­ers need ur­gent an­swers; none more so than from the French government on whose soil the crimes were com­mit­ted. But both the PKK and Turk­ish government must en­sure the voices of mod­er­a­tion pre­vail.

It is very easy to swing back to the realms of vi­o­lence and shy away from peace at this sen­si­tive con­jec­ture but this is ex­actly what the per­pe­tra­tors of the mur­ders want. The peace process is not at the stage of fully-fledged cease­fire ne­go­ti­a­tions and can eas­ily evap­o­rate be­fore any real sub­stance is built.

Can­siz did not have an ac­tive role in the PKK com­mand, although she con­tin­u­ously sup­ported the rebel cause. He death was more sym­bolic as a fe­male rev­o­lu­tion­ary, an icon of re­sis­tance and de­ter­mi­na­tion and of course as a found­ing mem­ber. It was de­signed to stir emo­tion more than de­prive the PKK of a leader or hand­i­cap the move­ment.

El­e­ments within both the PKK and Turk­ish state have rea­sons to de­rail the peace process. Ocalan is with­out a doubt the most in­flu­en­tial fig­ure­head of the PKK, but he has not been in ac­tive com­mand for al­most 14 years. Like any rebel move­ment, the PKK has its di­ver­gent branches and dif­fer­ing ide­o­log­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal stances, and Ocalan will not nec­es­sar­ily hold sway over all com­po­nents.

Af­ter nearly 30 years of fight­ing and count­less sac­ri­fices, el­e­ments within the PKK will be weary of “sell­ing out” to the arch en­emy. For ev­ery will­ing ne­go­tia­tor and mod­er­ate voice in the PKK, there are those that pre­fer to fight to their last breath.

As for Turk­ish na­tion­al­ists, the PKK has been a card that they can use to jus­tify the out­dated poli­cies of the state, re­pres­sion of the Kurds and to la­bel the Kurds as the “bad guys”. The PKK has been a means by which Turk­ish mil­i­tary hawks can jus­tify bil­lions of dol­lars of ex­pen­di­ture and keep in­tact Ke­mal­ist foun­da­tions.

Cer­tain el­e­ments within both the PKK and Turk­ish state have more to lose in peace than in war.

Even Iran and Syria, po­ten­tial sus­pects that should not be dis­counted from the mur­ders, have plenty to lose with peace be­tween PKK and Turk­ish state. The PKK has been like a wild­card used by var­i­ous re­gional ac­tors. The best ex­am­ple is how the PKK strug­gle was sig­nif­i­cantly re­vived as both Da­m­as­cus and Tehran were keen to pun­ish the in­flu­en­tial sup­port of Ankara in the Syr­ian upris­ing.

The PKK even has po­lit­i­cal roots in Syria via the PYD, which has alarmed Turkey, as Syr­ian Kurds rise to promi­nence has hit the in­ter­na­tional spot­light. Peace with the PKK not only gives Turkey re­as­sur­ances from within but also out­side its bor­ders. For the PKK, peace may safe­guard and even en­hance po­lit­i­cal gains of their brethren in Syria.

It is of ex­treme im­por­tance that as well as the French government, the Turk­ish government show their will­ing­ness to carry out a thor­ough and trans­par­ent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the killings. The Turk­ish government must show its hands are clean be­fore it re­sumes its po­si­tion at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

The PKK must re­frain from ac­cu­sa­tions and any harm­ing of the peace process while the pic­ture around the mur­ders be­come clearer and should con­duct its own in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

A por­trait of one of the found­ing mem­bers of the PKK, Sakine Can­siz, is dis­played at the Kur­dish Cul­ture In­sti­tute in Paris on Jan. 10.

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