Leyla Zana is a very important political figure among the Kurdish population. She’s often seen as close to Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq and to Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Some of her latest activities, however, have been criticized by some other Kurdish politicians.
Zana declared last week that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the only person in the country capable of resolving the Kurdish issue. Maybe she was just trying to say that every decision in Turkey is taken by the prime minister himself, and so he is the only one who needs to be convinced to move forward, but anyway, her declarations have marked the beginning of a positive atmosphere. The prime minister has agreed to meet with her, supporting the impression that this duo can push the resolution process forward. Maybe the government will now accelerate decisions about reinforcing rights and liberties, and maybe this time the weapons will be put away for good.
There are a lot of “maybes” because most Kurds are not as optimistic as Zana about trusting the government. That’s why those who make use of weapons will continue to use them. What is important will be to observe if some Kurds will start to condemn terrorist acts from now on.
There is discussion about whether or not Kurds’ rights can be defended singularly through political means. In order to contribute to the debate one has to quickly change the election law, and the Counterterrorism Law (TMK). We have to reform these laws because while some symbolic steps are giving hope for a political solution, the present legal system is still an obstacle to reaching a permanent solution.
Zana’s initiative has additional meaning in light of Barzani’s desire to cooperate with Turkey nowadays. At the same time, there are reports claiming that Öcalan is not as influential as he used to be over the PKK, and that it is not good news for those who want to negotiate with him to end the violence. Zana may have an idea about how to reinforce Öcalan’s position within the group.
Moreover, Syria is regularly accused of supporting the PKK, and there are people who say that the organization’s latest terrorist attacks were concocted by the Syrian regime. Maybe Öcalan is seen as the only person who can reduce Syria’s influence over the PKK, since it is known that both Öcalan and Barzani prefer talking to the US rather than to the European countries or Russia. All this makes Zana a politician worth listening to.
In this context, it is once more confirmed that the PKK’s violent methods are outdated and that they are rejected by the international community. This also means that no one in Turkey should try to use the PKK to attain sinister political goals. It is no longer convincing to say “without armed struggle Kurds can never obtain their rights” since it is also no more credible to insist “first they have to bury the hatchet and only then will we talk to them.”
The government is trying to isolate the PKK by saying that the political and social rights of the Kurds and their civil liberties are something the government is working on seriously. The government, as all elected bodies, is naturally making electoral calculations, too.
Nevertheless, the ongoing trials involving Kurdish trade unions, politicians and students are a serious problem. It is not clear whether or not the judicial or legal pressures will make the Kurds abandon the PKK. The prime minister may launch courageous initiatives in order to resolve the Kurdish issue, but there are still some circles that try to sabotage these efforts. That is why it is good, but not good enough, to listen to Zana just one time. The communication channels must remain permanently open from now on.