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June 26, 2012, Tuesday

An intricate strategy

A Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attack took place at the Dağlıca (Oramar) military post last week. Eight soldiers and 23 PKK militants died. An interview by a Turkish journalist with the acting head of the PKK, Murat Karayılan, was published last week by online sources. In the interview Karayılan expressed regret that negotiations between Turkish officials and the PKK operatives had been scuttled by the attacks. He mentioned “unidentified” perpetrators who wanted to drive a wedge between Turks and Kurds. A day after his seemingly sincere admission (that was the impression of the interviewer), the PKK attacked with 300 men and revealed its real aim: continuing its spree of violence.

Indeed the PKK still believes that violence pays. If it wasn’t for violence, Kurdish grievances would not be heard by the Turkish government, nor would the organization be invited to the negotiating table. Once again it is made evident that the PKK’s primary aim is not reconciliation with Turkey. The organization wants to share: to share the national territory and to manage the Kurdish-dominated provinces. The PKK’s systematic sabotage of the peace process is a political strategy that will continue until it realizes its aim of managing the entire Kurdish political geography, beginning with Turkey.

Two things facilitate the maximalist approach of the PKK. One is the docility and obvious support of some Kurdish people who vote for the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and lend their sons and daughters to the militant organization. The other is the Turkish establishment’s refusal to understand that the “Kurdish problem” is indeed a matter of a lack of democracy and rule of law. This deficiency rendered the state an almighty Leviathan and dwarfed citizens who had to suffer whenever they demanded the rights and freedoms stolen from them. In sum, the “Kurdish problem” is one of many similar problems that arose from the non-popular nature of a regime built on the primacy of the state over society. Hence its solution rests on the emancipation of the citizen.

PKK leaders penned their grand design in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) convention. In this convention -- presented as the constitution of the “free and united” Kurdistan encompassing Kurdish communities in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. “KCK citizenship” denotes allegiance to a new political entity apart from present territorial citizenships. The convention drew up a state apparatus that is parallel and alternative to the current state formations in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.

So far the only semi-independent Kurdish community is in Iraq, and it is run by local actors. Iran and Turkey are too strong to allow local Kurdistans. However, Syria is in turmoil, and the best chances to create a Kurdistan are there. Already Kurds led by the PKK hold northern Syria along the southern Turkish border.

According to visitors to Kandil, PKK leadership is making plans to evacuate the Arab towns and villages in the north and create a Kurdish province. The Turkish government knows of this design and wants to intervene in Syrian politics to fashion a post-Assad government it can influence. However, neither Israel nor Iran wants this. Together with a desperate Bashar al-Assad they are aiding the PKK in Syria.

Needless to say neither the Iraqi KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) leadership nor the Turkish government is happy about this relationship. That is why both Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani are trying to reconcile the PKK with Turkey. However, the PKK is trying to consolidate its foothold in Syria where it will declare its autonomous administration with the blessing of the aforementioned governments.

Two things began to be discussed. The first was an unprecedented uttering of the phrase “resolution of the Kurdish problem within Turkey and between the peoples by peaceful means.” Leyla Zana, a respected veteran of the Kurdish imbroglio, and Selahattin Demirtaş, co-president of the BDP, spoke on this matter. The first said the problem could be solved under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and that we must all help him. The second called on the PKK to lay its arms down and said let us not anticipate a cease-fire or a peace initiative either from the PKK or the Justice and Development Party (AK Party): The people must reconcile amongst themselves. Both statements are devoid of violence.

The second topic of conversation was a Turkish military operation at Kandil. This is exactly what the PKK wants: to pull Turkey into a fight with the Kurds. So the Turkish military expedition will conveniently be transformed into an all-out Kurdish-Turkish conflict. Furthermore if Turkish troops annihilate fewer militants than expected, the operation will look like a failure that will definitely be presented as the victory of the PKK. The ensuing psychology will weaken the AK Party government.

It is with these sentiments that we have concluded a week full of heated debates and soul searching in Turkey.

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