It was announced that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was celebrating the fist anniversary of the “democratic autonomy” system, which was claimed to be the “solution” to the Kurdish question.
The BDP declared this “democratic autonomy” on July 14, 2011. On the same day, a few hours before the declaration, the PKK killed 13 soldiers in Diyarbakır. Thus, the BDP was criticized for the timing of the declaration and asked why they were so rushed in making it. Questions like “Couldn't you wait a few more days to declare such a project?” were posed.
In response to the criticism, BDP leaders said they did not know the clash had taken place and that 13 soldiers were killed. As expected, many intellectuals accepted the BDP's “excuse” and did not ask why the BDP had chosen July 14 to declare “democratic autonomy.”
In fact the date July 14 is a special day for the PKK network to celebrate. July 14, 1984, is the date when the PKK set up a propaganda group to launch its armed fight. July 14 is the day when the PKK militants launched their hunger strike in Diyarbakır Prison. The hunger strike has a symbolic meaning in the PKK's history. It is believed that with the hunger strike the PKK “proved” its sincerity about the Kurdish issue and became widely accepted as legitimate by other Kurdish organizations that were established prior to the PKK.
Thus, declaring “democratic autonomy” was not a coincidence. Rather, it was a deliberate day to choose to make such a declaration. It was the day to declare the PKK's “victory” after a decades-old struggle.
In this regard one needs to recognize the PKK's struggle is a well-planned one. The PKK never forgets its history and builds its struggle on symbolically significant dates. Therefore, one needs to understand that the PKK struggle is largely a "symbolic" struggle. Such struggle is necessary for the PKK because the PKK fights to build identity based on the symbols it chooses. Hence, July 14 is not just a date for the PKK, but rather is has a heavy symbolic meaning.
By declaring “democratic autonomy” on that day, the PKK says two things to its followers. First, the PKK has never abandoned its original aim. This aim is to bring “liberty” to the Kurds. Second, the PKK is winning the fight. On the same day the PKK leaders launched the hunger strike, a PKK-affiliated organization, the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), announced the “democratic autonomy” to show the struggle is paying off.
On the other side of the struggle, state institutions have no idea what the PKK network is trying to do. Except for a few state bureaucrats, the majority of the member of the bureaucracy do not have any idea about how symbols are related with identity and how a struggle based on symbols generates energy for an organization to maintain its existence. I bet overwhelming numbers of security bureaucrats, even in Diyarbakır, where the fight over July 14 took place, have no idea about the meaning of July 14.
Thus, the struggle over July 14, whether it is severe or not, is meaningful to not only commemorate those who lost their lives in a hunger strike in 1982 but it also a day to remind the PKK followers that the PKK still maintains its ideals. Therefore, for the PKK networks, the struggle over July 14 is not about winning or losing but about engaging in such a struggle. The engagement in the struggle produces the expected results: reminding the PKK sympathizers that the PKK is winning.
However, for the state the struggle is about saving the day. The security bureaucracy thinks that as long as they don't allow the PKK-affiliated organizations to organize a large demonstration, they are the winners.
In addition, the security bureaucracy never looks back or tries to relate the demonstration to the PKK's history. Rather, they look to the future and try to relate the demonstration to possible PKK plans to bring about a “Kurdish spring,” which could also be to understand the PKK's true aim. Thus, the security bureaucracy reads the PKK network's activities with fear and engages the struggle with the perception of fear.
If the state really wants to win this battle, it needs to change its outlook and try to understand the PKK's fight over symbols and engage in the fight accordingly.