A ‘new approach’ to the Kurdish issue: a road leading nowhere
I have not been blogging for over a week. I have been uncertain what to blog about. Recently I have written a lot about oppression of Kurds, and I felt I needed more variety in my subjects. So I was pondering what to write about. But today, I decided to give up. I’m a journalist; it would be ridiculous to blog trivia in these times when the Kurdish issue is all over the news – and not in a pretty way.
A lot has happened since Newroz earlier this month. The two most important developments of the previous week were the one month publication ban for Kurdish paper Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda) because of ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organization’, and the ‘new approach’ the AKP government is following on the Kurdish issue. The two of them are in total contradiction to each other.
The government’s intention is to fight the armed PKK with full force, and at the same time negotiate with the pro-Kurdish BDP. It is interesting to see an apparent change again in how the PKK is looked at in relation to the Kurdish issue.
Before, in the eighties and nineties, in the state’s eyes there was no such thing as the Kurdish issue. Kurds didn’t even exist, so how can there be a Kurdish issue, right? So the whole thing was brought back to ‘terrorism’, related to nothing. Later, when Kurds all of a sudden turned out to exist anyway, the whole Kurdish issue was brought back to the violence of the PKK. The state thought that when it wiped out the PKK, the Kurdish issue would be solved.
Then, at some point in the last decade, talks with the PKK started: apparently it sank in that maybe, just maybe, the existence of the PKK had something to do with the decades-long suppression of Kurds. And now, the two matters have been separated-again: the AKP has stopped talks with the PKK, put leader Öcalan in solitary confinement*), and wants to wipe out the PKK and negotiate with the BDP about solving the Kurdish issue. But it seems the AKP hasn’t really made up its mind yet about how the Kurdish issue and PKK violence are entwined: thousands of BDP politicians and administrators, calling for a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue, are jailed for having ties with the KCK, sort of a Kurdish umbrella organization of which the PKK is one of the founders. So AKP, what are they in your perception, linked or not?
What could be the aim of this strategy of the AKP is to eliminate anybody in Kurdish politics who is (imaginary or not) somehow related to the KCK or the PKK, stop all information exchange with the PKK, and then negotiate only with ‘clean’ Kurdish politicians. That would explain why Öcalan is in solitary confinement and cannot even see his lawyers (who would get opinions of Öcalan out), why many of his lawyers were also arrested after the solitary confinement started, why many Kurdish journalists are jailed (they have connections with all actors so can get relevant opinions out through their papers) and why BDP members are being jailed.
It’s a road leading nowhere. The BDP has done very well in the last general elections, they have a huge base in Turkey’s southeast and among Kurds in big cities like Istanbul and Izmir. Shutting up any BDP politician somehow tied to the PKK or insisting on Öcalan being included in negotiations is unreasonable. The AKP will find themselves at the negotiating table with people who have no, or at best only a little bit of support among the Kurdish people. A solution must be reached with as many actors as possible, to make a peace solid and lasting.
It is a ridiculous picture to begin with, of course. The AKP says it wants to negotiate, but locks up thousands of members of the party it says it wants to negotiate with, based on a too broad and widely criticized anti-terrorism law. And when the BDP then demands that first their members should be set free, that the solitary confinement of Öcalan should be lifted and that the violations of press freedom must come to an end, the BDP is blamed for being stubborn.
By the way, spring has started. An increase in PKK violence is expected now that the snow has started melting away even in the coldest parts of the country.
All these things were in my mind this week, as developments evolved. But I was not going to blog about it. I needed a change in subjects, I kept telling myself. I was going to blog about the visit I paid to a hamam in Gaziantep last week, and about how massive visits to hamams in Turkey, where women of all sizes and ages come, could be a great counterweight against all the unrealistic female body images we get via the media. And I was going to blog about how Turks are very unjustly denied a more relaxed visa regime with the European Union. I was going to blog about a small religious party demanding ‘pink buses’, for women only, and why I think that’s a bad idea. But I just couldn’t get it to paper. I will blog about those issues, but later. Now the very serious and negative developments in the Kurdish issue need all the attention they can possibly get.
*) Solitary confinement is a torture method. Öcalan is by far not the only prisoner in Turkey subject to this torture: also for example several suspects in the ‘Ergenekon trials’ are being damaged for life by this horrible punishment.
WOW thank you for this blog! I LOVE to see that people like you write about the Kurdish oppression and what they are facing in Turkey. This means so much for me and many other Kurds. Just wanted to say thank you!