Turkey, the PKK and crushed dreams of peace
There was a dream in Turkey, and the dream was that the promise of a ceasefire by our government with the PKK
Back in 2013, when I wrote that Turkey’s peace agreement with the PKK stands zero chance of holding, I was shunned for being a pessimist. I believed I was being a realist, since the very ideology of the PKK would never allow for the organization to give up arms or violence. This would simply mean the organization would cease to exist. Today we are again seeing violent clashes in the southeastern provinces of Turkey and the peace process is collapsing –expectedly.
There was a dream in Turkey, and the dream was that the promise of a ceasefire by our government with the PKK solely by agreeing to respect the unitary borders of the Republic of Turkey. The dream was for the PKK to give up their arms, embrace Turkey, even give up on their indoctrination in return for constitutional rights, to allow use of the Kurdish language in southeastern Turkey and recognize the absolute equality of Kurdish traditions to Turkish ones.
It was a beautiful dream but it was still just a dream. Regardless, the Turkish government delivered its side of the negotiation. There have been amendments to the constitution to secure equal rights for all minorities in terms of language and education and there is a state-approved TV station broadcasting in Kurdish.
Did these help stop the atrocities committed by the PKK? The PKK is a Leninist, Marxist, terrorist organization and by my interpretation of its ideology, it would engage in deception, confrontation, take two steps back but would never give up the violence.
I believe the only reason the PKK ceased violence for a short period of time was because the group was expecting to slowly drag Turkey to accept an autonomous Kurdish entity within the Turkish state’s borders. While there are more than 14 million Kurds living inside Turkish borders, even under the threat of a gun, the votes for BDP and HDP does not exceed a mere 1.4 million. An overwhelming majority of the Kurds do not want to live under PKK rule, in an autonomous region, pulled apart from Turkey. In several districts where the PKK is active, it alienated the local population because of its zeal for violence. Under Turkish law and according to the ECHR, both the PKK and KCK are terror organizations. Granting concessions to terror organizations and organized crime would be a violation of universal human rights and a blow to democracy.
Peace process collapse
Therefore, after a period of decline in violence and –almost – peaceful coexistence in the region, the PKK is believed to have started to commit violent attacks again. Numerous times YDG-H, the self-styled youth and public order organization of the PKK reportedly clashed with police and other Kurds in the Southeastern part of Turkey. PKK reportedly burned schools, to which Kurdish students go. The schools were heavily damaged by the time firefighters managed to extinguish the flames, with locals also helping the teams with buckets of water. The damaged schools were not able to serve students. The group also kidnapped construction workers and burned construction machines, libraries, official buildings in the Southeastern Turkey. Too many European diplomats and journalists mistakenly think that the PKK represents Kurds. Surely any government has to protect the lives and property of the people in an uprising.
There was a dream in Turkey, and the dream was that the promise of a ceasefire by our government with the PKKCeylan Ozbudak
Under these new circumstances we may be hearing the lines “we should not let the solution process go to waste.” However, in the hearts and minds of the Turkish nationals, the so-called process is already over. The Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran said life without liberty is like a body without spirit. This resonates with the Turkish people to the highest level. Just because the majority of the public is silent for now against the atrocities of the PKK in the South Eastern provinces of Turkey, does not mean they will remain silent in the face of a serious threat to the unitary structure of the country. We must not risk awakening this sleeping giant.
A danger to Turkey
Some pundits suggest that the PKK should be armed as a trump card against the forces of ISIS and even claimed it should be taken off the list of terrorist organizations, despite the thousands of people believed to have died since the PKK began its armed struggle against the Turkish state in 1984.
The difference between the European nations and Turkey in terms of foreseeing the PKK’s games is the difference in experience with the organization. This was not the first time the PKK called for a ceasefire. The PKK declared a ceasefire right after the 1980 coup and left Turkey for Syria and Lebanon. 18 years later, the PKK declared another unilateral ceasefire after Turkey captured its leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1998, moved its terrorists to northern Iraq, changed its name to KADEK and proclaimed a peaceful agenda for a while.
In 2004, the PKK claimed the bombing of targets in Istanbul, Antalya and Marmaris, killing three people and wounding more than 100, including European citizens. For Europeans, today the PKK may seem to be Turkey’s internal matter. However, its activities stretch beyond Turkey and directly affect Europe’s interests. Let’s not forget in 2004, Dutch security forces arrested 29 people and shut down a PKK training camp in Liempde.
As the peace process is slowly collapsing, Turkey’s allies should make their contribution to degrading the organization’s capabilities rather than holding on to an irrational daydream of making the PKK a proxy against ISIS. Many Turks find it unacceptable that the PKK functions freely inside Europe as PKK and am anti-PKK backlash has the potential to take on an anti-Western tone.
Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak
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