Turkey’s peace ini­tia­tive – en­sur­ing that once rebels drop weapons, they are not picked up again

The Kurdish Globe - - EDITORIAL -

The turn of the year has cre­ated a unique en­vi­ron­ment and mo­men­tum in Turkey for solv­ing the age-old Kur­dish ques­tion, bet­ter than any time in the his­tory of the Turk­ish repub­lic, cul­mi­nat­ing in Ab­dul­lah Ocalan’s Newroz cease­fire dec­la­ra­tion and an on-go­ing peace process.

While the cur­rent progress and gen­eral rhetoric is cer­tainly pos­i­tive, many ob­sta­cles lie head and the ini­tia­tive can be eas­ily de­railed.

It has taken bold steps from both sides to get this far and set­tling a three decade armed strug­gle can­not be achieved with­out coura­geous steps, de­ter­mi­na­tion and real com­pro­mise and de­sire. While many in Turkey con­tinue to be­lieve there is no Kur­dish ques­tion and what re­mains to be re­solved is a “ter­ror­ist” prob­lem, true res­o­lu­tion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion will only come with the ac­knowl­edge­ment that the Kur­dish ques­tion and the PKK prob­lem are one and the same.

The de­tails of peace talks and agree­ments, other than through leaked press re­ports, have been gen­er­ally con­cealed. The government needs to be clear and trans­par­ent in the ne­go­ti­a­tions and with prac­ti­cal steps it is will­ing to take.

Th­ese steps must mean whole­sale ges­tures to the Kurds through par­lia­men­tary mea­sures and not via a piece­meal car­rot and stick ap­proach.

The cur­rent de­bate about the with­drawal of PKK rebels within Turkey high­lights the cur­rent sen­si­tiv­ity that con­tin­ues to plague Turkey. The AKP government has re­fused de­mands to en­shrine the dis­ar­ma­ment and with­drawal of PKK rebels into leg­is­la­tion. It re­mains con­scious of na­tion­al­ist reser­va­tions or giv­ing the PKK neme­sis cred­i­bil­ity or ac­claim through any “pub­lic” with­drawal.

In the grander scheme of things, drop­ping of guns will not be an is­sue and it is likely that in Ocalan's lat­est let­ter to be an­nounced that he will push the rebels to dis­arm be­fore with­draw­ing. It is en­sur­ing that th­ese guns are not picked up gain that is the is­sue.

If Turk­ish government con­ces­sions fail to ma­te­ri­alise or ap­pease the greater por­tion of Kur­dish so­ci­ety, the process can eas­ily un­ravel. Fur­ther­more, with­out long-term peace and demo­cratic mea­sures, re­flected in a con­sti­tu­tion that de­liver true rights for the Kurds and a level of re­gional au­ton­omy en­veloped with econ­omy growth and in­vest­ment in the south east, an­other armed group may sim­ply fly the flag.

With new demo­cratic chan­nels, a con­sti­tu­tion that pro­tects Kur­dish iden­tity and new jobs, much needed pub- lic ser­vices and an im­proved stan­dard of liv­ing, a new nat­u­ral po­lit­i­cal cli­mate can take hold in the Kur­dish re­gions of Turkey.

In­deed the on­set of a new Turkey is a win-win for Turks and Kurds, but for the PKK it has to re­alise that an end of vi­o­lence is also win-win for all parts of Kur­dis­tan. The new Kur­dis­tan Re­gion of Syria was ham­pered by its as­so­ci­a­tion with the PKK and a harsh line of Turkey. Peace in Turkey will also re­sult in con­struc­tive steps by Ankara with Qamishli.

The anti-As­sad stance of the Turk­ish government led to a some­what pre­dictable rein­vig­o­ra­tion of Da­m­as­cus ties with the PKK serv­ing to “pun­ish” and desta­bilise Turkey. The in­flu­ence of PKK peace ne­go­ti­a­tions on the PYD can ar­guably al­ready be seen with es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions be­tween YPG Kur­dish forces and regime forces.

Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter, Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan, who for many is stak­ing his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer in the rap­proche­ment with Ocalan, is seek­ing to make a num­ber of gains in one move.

It can­not ig­nore the on­set of Syr­ian Kur­dish au­ton­omy which raises the na­tion­al­ist stake for all Kurds and in the fast chang­ing Mid­dle East and sur­rounded by all four parts of Kur­dis­tan, it can risk an­i­mos­ity with the Kurds at its peril.

Last but not least, peace with the PKK re­moves one re­main­ing thorn in the al­ready strong and pros­per­ous re­la­tions be­tween the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion and Ankara. With ex­pand­ing en­ergy ties with Er­bil and un­prece­dented trade vol­umes not to men­tion the im­por­tance of strate­gic and po­lit­i­cal al­liances with the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Government, Ankara can ill-af­ford to let out-dated na­tion­al­ist prin­ci­ples mark the grow­ing re­al­ity of a new mid­dle East­ern or­der and with it the rise of the Kurds. Ankara can ei­ther ig­nore the Kur­dish na­tion­al­ist re­al­ity to its detri­ment or har­ness it for the bet­ter­ment of Turkey’s re­gional and strate­gic goals.

An im­age of PKK leader Ab­dul­lah Ocalan is held by a par­tic­i­pant of the cel­e­bra­tion of Newroz in Di­yarbakir on Thurs­day (March 21st).

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