Having failed to make progress on the settlement process, which was supposed to pave the way for the disarming of Kurdish militants and address long-standing Kurdish demands, the Turkish government has now turned its attention to finding a scapegoat on which to place blame for the stalled talks ahead of national elections slated for June 2015.
“Just as the government tried to characterize the major corruption investigations of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 as a judicial coup by the so-called ‘parallel structure,' it is now again trying to shift blame for the failure of the settlement process to others,” said İsmet Büyükataman, the secretary-general of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
“Turkish society has never believed in the parallel lies. The developments in Turkey's southeast and the concessions given to the terrorist organization [Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)] have generated major concerns among people,” Büyükataman told Today's Zaman.
“Parallel structure” is a term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to describe Hizmet, a faith-based social movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The term was invented by Erdoğan to evade serious charges after he, his family members and close associates were implicated in corruption scandals.
Many police investigators, judges and prosecutors who were involved in the corruption probes were reassigned, demoted and purged from their positions in an effort to suppress the criminal investigations. However, several polls suggest the majority of the nation believes the charges are substantiated and discounts the idea of a parallel structure.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), also said the responsibility for the failure of the settlement talks lies with the government, which only saw the process as an election tactic.
“Do not bother searching for a scapegoat for this,” he said, stressing that it was up to the government to enforce public order and prevent violence in the streets.
They played with the concept of the so-called parallel structure to avoid corruption investigations, Tanrıkulu said, adding that the government cannot escape taking responsibility for its own failures by using others as scapegoats.
New plot against Hizmet movement
Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, wrote about a new plot by the government to link the Hizmet movement with the PKK and blame the former for the failure of talks.
Describing the plot as proof of the desperation of the smear-mongers, Dumanlı said, “Those who have developed and maintained good relations with the PKK for many years -- making promises they cannot keep and conducting negotiations with the outlawed organization as if it represented the entire Kurdish community -- seem to have panicked, as they are failing to keep their promises and things are starting to move out of their hands.”
“They will not only portray the Hizmet movement as cooperating with the PKK to stigmatize the former, but also shift the blame for many unsolved murders onto this imaginary cooperation,” he added.
Despite the ongoing, though stalled, settlement process, the PKK has kept up its attacks against Turkish security forces. Three soldiers in civilian clothes were shot in the back in downtown Yüksekova, a district in the southeastern province of Hakkari. In another attack in Diyarbakır at the end of October, a 24-year-old noncommissioned officer in civilian clothes was shot dead while buying fruit at the market with his pregnant wife. Two police officers were also killed in an ambush by the PKK last month.
Fearing that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) may lose votes in elections over the failure of the settlement process, government leaders have already turned to the nationalistic discourse and started using harsh language against the outlawed PKK and its political extension, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).
“The first thing we did after we formed the new government and got a vote of confidence was to hold a meeting to form a mechanism on the settlement process. We announced this mechanism with a Prime Ministry decree on Oct. 1. But what was their response? They increased their banditry on Oct. 6-7. Are we going to remain silent in the face of this? We will not let them create a de facto situation in [eastern Turkey] that does not allow any political structure other than themselves,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said last week.
In mentioning the dates Oct. 6-7, Davutoğlu was referring to nationwide street demonstrations held by Kurds to protest the government's policies regarding the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) advance on the Syrian town of Kobani. Due to the widespread violent protests in the country's mainly Kurdish southeastern region and in cities such as İstanbul and İzmir, a curfew was imposed in six southeastern provinces after the protests turned violent. Protesters clashed not only with the police, but rival groups also clashed deadly confrontations in cities such as Diyarbakır and Batman.
The widespread Kobani protests last month put a strain on the settlement process aimed at solving Turkey's decades-old Kurdish issue through talks with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK.
In remarks last week Erdoğan also blamed the HDP and PKK leadership in northern Iraq for the violent protests. He added that Öcalan was also disturbed by what happened and intervened to save the settlement process.
PKK leader blames government for settlement process failure
However, PKK leaders as well as politicians from the HDP blamed the government for the failure of the settlement process.
Cemil Bayık, president of the Kurdistan Communities' Union (KCK) executive council, told Yurt daily on Monday that he blames Erdoğan and the government for the failure, saying that the government has never intended to resolve Kurdish problem.
“Erdoğan acted as if he will resolve the problem, talked about it all the time but he never really committed to the settlement process,” he said. Bayık also accused him of raising expectations, buying time and sacrificing everything to perpetuate his rule.
The KCK is an umbrella network that includes the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU.
Bayık warned that Turkey is heading to either a civil war or a military coup. “If Erdoğan insists on pursuing these policies, this will either lead to a coup like in Egypt or a civil war. Turkey will experience a similar situation as that in Iraq and Syria,” he said.
Appearing on CNN Türk Sunday night, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan accused the PKK of derailing the settlement process.
He said Öcalan played a role in the violent protests of Oct. 6-7 in order to strengthen his hand. “We have seen violent incidents as a means to pressure [the government] in the past,” he recalled, stressing that Öcalan believes if nothing happens on the ground his role will be sidelined.
At the heart of the issue is a growing mistrust between pro-Kurdish political parties and the government over the undisclosed roadmap that was reportedly agreed upon in late 2012 between the two sides.
The rift has become more visible in the wake of the Kobani protests with both parties recently using a more accusatory tone against each other.
HDP Şırnak deputy Hasip Kaplan even claimed that the judiciary is under pressure from the government to close down the HDP and that a recent meeting of Turkey's top security body, the National Security Council (MGK), had targeted the party as well.
The latest MGK meeting ended with a statement saying that the gathering had tackled “illegal parallel structures that operate under the guise of legal structures,” which it said posed a threat to national security.
Commenting on the current status of the talks between the government and PKK leader Öcalan, HDP Co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş recently acknowledged that the talks have come to a halt. “The talks have stopped. This is an extraordinary situation,” Demirtaş said.
In the government's view, the PKK is responsible for the recent standstill. A columnist from the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily, Abdulkadir Selvi, said Interior Minister Efkan Ala told him that the government and the PKK reached an agreement during negotiations in Oslo but the PKK violated this agreement.
The ongoing talks between Öcalan and Turkish government officials are the continuation of a 2010 negotiation that began in Oslo but was interrupted in 2011 by a deadly PKK attack. The process resumed when Öcalan intervened in a collective hunger strike held by Kurdish inmates in November 2012, successfully ending the protest.
Main opposition criticizes lack of transparency in process
Turkey's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), says the process was doomed to fail from the start because the talks are not conducted on a participatory and transparent basis but rather in a secretive manner and with imposing and threatening language.
Mehmet Bekaroğlu, deputy chairman of the CHP, said neither president Erdoğan nor the senior officials of AKP have the capacity to resolve the Kurdish problem because they are not thinking in terms of freedoms and rights.
He also criticized the government for engaging in discussions with the PKK over Kurdish rights, saying that fundamental rights cannot be subject to negotiations. “The main problem in Turkey's southeast is the failure to provide freedoms,” he said asking the government to bring constitutional amendments to Parliament so that everybody can participate in resolving the Kurdish problem in a transparent and participatory way.
The nationalists also accused the government of realizing that the settlement process had already gone off the rails, pointing to the PKK's increasing influence in the Southeast.
The MHP said PKK members are no longer active just in the mountains but are now also operating inside Turkish cities, blaming the government for not taking the necessary measures against the increasing activism of the PKK in southeastern Turkey for the sake of the settlement process.
In the meantime, the Patriotic Revolutionist Youth Movement (YDG-H) -- an affiliate of the PKK -- clashed with security forces in İdil district in the southeastern province of Şırnak on Sunday night.
The armed members of YDG-H reportedly dug trenches and erected barricades around the Turgut Özal neighborhood in order to block soldiers and police from entering the region. When the police confronted the militants a firefight broke out but did not result in injuries.
YDG-H members have recently declared autonomy in the Cizre and Silopi districts of Şırnak.
On Monday gendarmerie forces also seized arms and ammunition reportedly belonging to the PKK in an operation launched in Şemdinli, a district of the southeastern province of Hakkari.
Published on Today's Zaman, 10 November 2014, Monday