This is obviously risky as we cannot separate between the imagined and the real. One day it is the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that we invest our hopes in to resolve the Kurdish question, and the next it is Abdullah Öcalan. Once they are unable to meet our expectations for peace we turn to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani, or senior Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Murat Karayılan and the “moderates” in the Kandil Mountains.
So the search for peace continues. Whoever appears to give a chance for peace raises hopes across the country among both the Kurds and Turks. The meeting of Leyla Zana with Erdoğan was yet another such occasion. Just before, the meeting between Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), with Erdoğan had similarly raised hopes. But within days, expectations for a new process faded as both leaders went back to making heavy accusations against each other.
Does the Zana-Erdoğan meeting mark the beginning of a new process? Again, we hope so… But I have personally gotten tired of disappointments and so try not to raise any hopes for this latest round of initiatives. Besides I have started to think that the actors capable of resolving the question on both sides are not really willing to resolve the question. The comfort of the current state of affairs, however marked by violence it is, seems to be preferred to the risks of a settlement. I do not mean, of course, risks for the Turks and the Kurds in general, but the risks for the political leaders on both sides.
Violence and confrontation have become routine, part of daily life and in fact, the meaning of life. Without a Kurdish question, for example, the Kurdish leadership team, the Turkish security forces and the nationalist bloc is not sure how they can justify their existence. Thus established habits, structures, mentalities and political practices prevent both sides from making decisive decisions to settle the issue.
Take the example of the ruling party. The AK Party leadership team is well aware of the fact that a continuation of the current state of the Kurdish question will not cost it to lose an election. Limited violence and activities of the PKK do not cause much harm but, on the contrary, underlines the need for a strong government, an attribute of the AK Party. Besides no one can blame the AK Party for creating the Kurdish question. The party can always and rightly claim to have changed Turkey’s decades-old policies of denial, thus becoming the one who has contributed to the betterment of Kurds’ lives.
What about the PKK? I do not think that the PKK is ready to risk a solution, either. It is an organization designed to wage guerilla warfare with an outdated ideology. Labeling itself as the organizational embodiment of the Kurdish nation, it does not tolerate any dissenting voices within its ranks or among Kurds. So it is not a “normal” political party that can adapt itself to the conditions of “normal politics” after a solution. Thus they encounter this big question: Is there a life for the PKK after the solution? This is the toughest question for the PKK cadres. They are the ones who have been making sacrifices in the mountains for years, but the “white Kurds” who have not been involved will take the trophy of a solution away in an actual struggle. The best they can hope for is the life of a refugee in a European city.
In short, we have gotten accustomed to living with the Kurdish question and its accompanying violence.
It is thus not surprising that following the meeting of Zana and Erdoğan, all kind of confusing statements came from the PKK, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and government circles. I think Zana could no longer resist the pressures of being her own “actor” which she has been experiencing since her release from prison in 2004. But the complexities of Turkish and Kurdish politics are unlikely to give way to the well-intended initiative of Zana. The question is rooted in the structure of the success and survival system of Turkish and Kurdish politics, and thus it can hardly be resolved by individual actors and initiatives. Let’s see what happens to Zana’s initiative, but it is better to be realistic.