January 9, 2013

But which PKK?

Direct and open talks with the terrorist organization, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), have secured the backing of all social groups, both in the Turkish and Kurdish communities.

The talks were kicked off by National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, who paid a visit to PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, currently serving a life sentence in a prison on İmralı, an island off the coast of İstanbul, and which gained momentum with several pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies visiting Öcalan. While the process is welcomed with some caution due to the fate of similar processes in the past, the negotiations geared toward the disarmament of the PKK raised hopes for a solution in everyone except the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the neo-nationalist (ulusalcı) marginal groups.

Fethullah Gulen
Within this scope, Fethullah Gülen, a well-respected Turkish-Islamic scholar who enjoys a certain clout in ensuring the legitimacy of social and political moves in Turkey, made remarks in support of the peace negotiations. Referring to a verse in the Holy Quran (4:128) which reads, "Peaceful settlement is better," Gülen asserted that Islam attaches great importance to peace and that the Islamic principle "Peace is in itself goodness" is a universal principle. With these remarks, Gülen actually expressed how great masses in Turkey are feeling about the process.

Despite the vast social support behind the negotiations, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, speaking during the meeting of his party's parliamentary group on Tuesday, maintained his usual attitude. Describing those who sought his support for the negotiations as "lacking intelligence and foresight," Bahçeli said in a harsh tone, "Their demands will be fulfilled only if hell freezes over." He further claimed that the government had promoted the number one perpetrator of the PKK terrorist organization to the rank of politician through negotiations. With these remarks, he actually wanted to spark a wave of reactions against the negotiations and secure political gain from the resulting chaos.

Frankly speaking, if the MHP had given any backing to this process -- which will settle the terrorism issue and which will form a major step in solving the Kurdish issue -- this would have come as a real surprise to everyone. Indeed, no one was expecting Bahçeli to make such a surprising move. And he did not.

On the other hand, what the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) did took many by surprise. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu adopted a constructive attitude toward Turkey's longstanding issue without pursuing political motives for his party, and by doing so earned a remarkable premium in the eyes of society. Having correctly analyzed the public's exasperation with clashes, conflict, violence and bloodshed and their hopes for peace, the CHP, we can say, has developed the correct discourse as regards the negotiations that aim to put an end to the PKK's terrorism.

Based on all this, we can safely assume that the social groups behind the state in the negotiations are lending great support to the peace process. However, does this apply to Öcalan, who is supposed to represent the PKK, in the negotiations? Does Öcalan exert full control over the PKK, as is assumed? And does he fully represent the PKK as he is supposed to? Has he been able to exert full control over the PKK and its affiliates during the last 14 years that he has been on İmralı Island? The PKK is currently giving the impression that it is subcontracting terrorist attacks for international powers. To what extent will Öcalan and his supporters in the organization be able to thwart external influence over the PKK? To what extent can we say that the PKK is a monolithic organization steered by a single leader, particularly given the fact that its actions tend to give rise to questions as to why it performs a specific act at a specific time?

We must ponder on the answers to these questions in order to avoid another disappointment in the social groups that are currently entertaining considerably high hopes about the latest process. Experience tells us that some groups from the deep state or from the PKK tend to sabotage every positive step taken to solve this chronic problem. Perhaps this time we should leave nothing to chance, and prepare against all provocative sabotage efforts. In this context, it is important to note that the PKK's attacks against gendarmerie outposts are still under way even at a time when the efforts for a conclusive solution are the main agenda in the country.

On Monday, a group of PKK terrorists raided the Karataş military outpost in Çukurca, a district of Hakkari province, killing one soldier and wounding two others, and this is clear proof that those powers that do not want peace in these lands will try their usual methods to sabotage the process. Moreover, the nature of the current and past terrorist attacks make it impossible for us to say that the PKK is indeed a monolithic organization steered by a single leader.

In this scenario, my question in the headline, "But which PKK?" becomes more important.

Really, which PKK? Iran's PKK? Or Syria's? Or the PKK which Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki can freely support without any obstruction? Or the PKK of Greece, Russia or our Western “friends,” which seek to keep the PKK alive as they don't want Turkey to grow in power beyond a certain limit?

Indeed, in his article for the Zaman daily on Tuesday, Mümtaz'er Türköne drew attention to this risk and discussed Iran's relations with the PKK. "The matter does not consist only of İmralı," writes Türköne. "Turkey is maintaining hopeful negotiations with Öcalan and a cut-throat struggle against Iran. The real clashes are occurring in Baghdad and Damascus. Turkey is trying to solve its terrorism issue at the expense of Iran." We cannot agree with him more.

Published on Today's Zaman, 08 January 2013, Tuesday

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