Un­cer­tainty with peace process

Ne­go­ti­a­tions with im­pris­oned leader of Kur­dish rebels raise many ques­tions

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE - By Azad Amin

Ne­go­ti­a­tions with im­pris­oned leader of Kur­dish rebels raise

many ques­tions Talks be­tween Ocalan and MIT can­not re­solve the Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion

Talks be­tween Ocalan and MIT can­not re­solve the Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion

There are con­cen­trated talks and dis­cus­sions among the Turk­ish me­dia re­gard­ing the so-called ‘peace process’ be­tween Turk­ish state and PKK’s im­pris­oned leader Ab­dul­lah Ocalan. For some time the AKP-led Turk­ish government through Turk­ish In­tel­li­gence Agency (MIT) has be­gan talk­ing with Ocalan in or­der to stop PKK’s mil­i­tary war­fare in Turkey and get PKK’s guer­ril­las back to Kur­dis­tan re­gion of Iraq. The ne­go­ti­a­tions or rather the se­cre­tive talks be­tween MIT and Ocalan have been clas­si­fied as the ini­ti­a­tion of a ‘peace process’.

For so many, in­clud­ing the ed­i­to­rial of this is­sue by Bash­dar Is­mael, the so-called peace process is a very nec­es­sary and good step that has po­ten­tial to re­solve the Kur­dish ques­tion in Turkey. For Bash­dar ‘The Im­rali peace process in Turkey has cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment, sup­port base and sense of ex­pectancy that has never been seen be­fore’. Bash­dar op­ti­misti­cally ar­gues that a new Turkey can be built by writ­ing a new con­sti­tu­tion: ‘ A new con­sti­tu­tion that rec­og­nizes the Kurds and en­shrines their rights, in­clud­ing a level of au­ton­omy, is of para­mount im­por­tance.’

A sim­i­lar ar­gu­ment is put for­ward by Ab­dulka­dir Selvi in his col­umn at Yeni Safak on Mon­day. Selvi is not only a Turk­ish jour­nal­ist but also a close ad­viser of Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan. In that sense his vi­sion and ideas re­gard­ing the process is cru­cial. Selvi like Bash­dar ar­gued that this process, if it is crowned with a par­al­lel process of writ­ing a new con­sti­tu­tion, def­i­ni­tion of a new iden­tity and mo­ral val­ues can lead to the con­struc­tion of a new Turkey and liq­uida- tion of old Turkey that was es­tab­lished on the out­dated prin­ci­ples of It­ti­had-i Ter­akki or Com­mitte of Union and Progress, (Yeni Safak, 25 Fe­bru­ary).

Th­ese op­ti­mistic views is not con­fined solely to a hand­ful of writ­ers whether Turks or Kurds. It is com­mon among the lib­eral minded in­tel­li­gentsia in Turkey. Ul­tra Turk­ish na­tion­al­ists and the main op­po­si­tion party, Repub­lic Peo­ple’s Party, CHP, fiercely op­pos­ing the on­go­ing talks with Ocalan mainly due to the fact that if the AKP government is suc­cess­ful in end­ing the con­flict, they fear this will pro­long AKP Party in Turk­ish pol­i­tics for some time to come.

This so-called peace process how­ever has to be crit­i­cally an­a­lyzed within the frame­work of Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion and so­lu­tion of that ques­tion. Fail­ing to ap­proach the is­sue through na­tional per­spec­tive has po­ten­tial to de­vi­ate from the essence of the Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion and con­se­quently not lead to an ap­pro­pri­ate so­lu­tion.

Talks be­tween MIT and Ocalan to­wards the so­lu­tion of an decades old con­flict has noth­ing to do with the Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion but it is about the ex­is­tence of PKK and its prob­lem with the Turk­ish po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment. What is at the stake is not the Kur­dish na­tional is­sue but the prob­lem­atic ex­is­tence and sur­vival of PKK as an or­ga­ni­za­tion spread through­out Turkey, Mid­dle East and Europe. It is also a per­sonal ques­tion of Ab­dul­lah Ocalan and im­prov­ing his prison con­di­tions and his pos­si­ble free­dom.

In­deed end­ing the con­flict will open new doors for the dis­cus­sion on the Kur­dish ques­tion from a new per­spec­tive. The three decades of con­flict be­tween PKK and Turk­ish se­cu­rity forces in re­al­ity hi­jacked the Kur­dish ques­tion from its true essence and di­min­ished Kur­dish na­tional/demo­cratic lib­er­a­tion strug­gle to a se­cu­rity and ter­ror par­a­digm. End of con­flict and le­gal­iza­tion of PKK and its in­te­gra­tion into the Turk­ish po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment may open new op­por­tu­ni­ties to Kur­dish na­tional move­ment to raise the is­sue back to its right place.

The Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion is a ques­tion of na­tion­al­ity and sovereignty. It is a po­lit­i­cal ques­tion that refers to le­git­i­mate na­tional rights of the Kurds over their ter­ri­tory and sovereignty. The Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion is not about de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion of Turkey but the prop­erty rights of the Kurds over their ge­og­ra­phy and the nat­u­ral re­sources over it. With­out the Kurds hav­ing their sov­er­eign rights and en­ti­tle­ment over the ter­ri­tory, the Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion can­not and will not be re­solved. The Iraqi ex­pe­ri­ence in­di­cates this very clearly.

The so-called peace process and the talks be­tween Ocalan and MIT does not in any way refers to such prin­ci­ples and thus re­duces the Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion to a mi­nor­ity ques­tion.

It is also im­per­a­tive to un­der­line the tim­ing of the talks, which is tak­ing place in a sen­si­tive pe­riod in the Mid­dle East and in Iraq par­tic­u­larly. Po­lit­i­cal chaos and civil war in Syria has po­ten­tial to dis­in­te­grate Syria into na­tional and re­li­gious com­po­nents thus po­ten­tial for Syr­ian Kurds to es­tab­lish a Kur­dish po­lit­i­cal en­tity sim­i­lar Iraqi Kur­dis­tan. There are two main cur­rents in Syr­ian Kur­dis­tan, one led by Kur­dish Na­tional Coun­cil com­posed of var­i­ous Kur­dish po­lit­i­cal par­ties and groups, and the other Peo­ple’s Coun­cil led by Demo­cratic Union Party, known as PYD. PYD is known for its close as­so­ci­a­tion with PKK.

While KNC de­mands fed­eral sta­tus of Syr­ian Kurds in post-As­sad pe­riod, PYD de­mands ba­sic cul­tural and in­di­vid­ual rights for Syr­ian Kurds within a demo­cratic Syria. PYD for­mu­lates its ar­gu­ment sim­i­lar to PKK un­der the ban­ner of ‘demo­cratic au­ton­omy’. PYD’s au­ton­omy how­ever does not de­mar­cate Syr­ian Kur­dis­tan bor­der and does not in­clude any sov­er­eign rights for the Kurds. In other words PYD’s pol­icy for Syr­ian Kurds is to re­duce the na­tional ques­tion of Syr­ian Kurds to mi­nor­ity rights.

Turkey’s main con­cern for Syria is to pre­vent dis­in­te­gra­tion of the coun­try into its na­tional and re­li­gious com­po­nents and to pre­vent the Syr­ian Kurds to have their own sov­er­eign sta­tus sim­i­lar to the Iraqi Kurds. For­ma­tion of an­other fed­eral Kur­dish po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment may jeop­ar­dize AKP led Turk­ish government pol­icy for re­solv­ing the Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion within the par­a­digm of mi­nor­ity ques­tion, in other words in­te­grat­ing and as­sim­i­lat­ing the Kurds into the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment through grant­ing ba­sic in­di­vid­ual rights rather than col­lec­tive and na­tional rights.

In this sense Turkey will be suc­cess­ful in re­solv­ing the Kur­dish ques­tion with­out jeop­ar­diz­ing the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment that is based on ‘one na­tion, one flag, one state’. Suc­cess­ful talks be­tween Ocalan and MIT or be­tween Turkey and PKK para­dox­i­cally means con­trol­ling and ma­nip­u­lat­ing po­lit­i­cal devel­op­ment in Syr­ian Kur­dis­tan by Turkey through PKK and PYD. Be­cause PYD is noth­ing but a proxy or­ga­ni­za­tion of PKK and fol­lows its foot­steps, Turkey through PKK and PYD will try to af­fect the Kur­dish pol­i­tics in Syria.

De­spite the good re­la­tions be­tween Turkey and Kur­dis­tan Re­gional government both en­ti­ties may face each other in Syria and Syr­ian Kur­dis­tan mainly be­cause their poli­cies con­tra­dict each other. While KRG pur­sues a fed­eral sys­tem in post-As­sad regime, Turkey as­pires for a cen­tral­ized po­lit­i­cal regime for post-As­sad regime. The best in­stru­ment that Turkey has in its hand is the PYD be­cause it pur­sues a po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tive al­beit in a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal jar­gon.

The talks be­tween PKK and Turkey thus have two in­ten­tions: on the one hand to in­te­grate the north­ern Kurds (Kur­dis­tan of Turkey) into Turk­ish po­lit­i­cal sys­tem in a vol­un­tary way through PKK and on the other hand to pre­vent the Syr­ian Kurds to es­tab­lish their own sov­er­eign po­lit­i­cal regime ei­ther by a fed­eral struc­ture or in­de­pen­dence.

Here comes a crit­i­cal ques­tion of KRG in this process. KRG ex­pressed its good in­ten­tion in this so-called peace process and out­lined that it is ready to take part to­wards a peace­ful so­lu­tion. If KRG really be­lieves that the on­go­ing talks will re­solve the Kur­dish na­tional ques­tion then KRG makes a his­tor­i­cal mis­take and digs its own grave. But if it ap­proaches the is­sue in a prag­matic way to end the PKK’s con­flict with Turkey, it must fol­low a very del­i­cate pol­icy. KRG’s main con­cern and con­cen­tra­tion should not be about the Kurds in Turkey at this stage but the Syr­ian Kur­dis­tan be­cause the des­tiny of the Kurds in Kur­dis­tan will be de­ter­mined by how the Syr­ian po­lit­i­cal devel­op­ment may evolve.

Turk­ish na­tion­al­ists could mis­read the le­gal opin­ion as pro-PKK feel­ing, a diplo­mat said.

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