Leyla Zana is a strong and famous politician who has spent a lot of time in jail, waited for her husband’s release from prison for years and witnessed murders committed by deep-state entities like JİTEM in the 1990s. She was attacked in 1991 when, as a newly elected deputy, she spoke Kurdish in Parliament during the oath-taking ceremony. She was sent to jail. She did not kill anybody; she did not commit any crime.
As an act of civil disobedience, she spoke her own native language. She spent 10 years in prison. Despite this difficult past, it was she who made the call for dialogue in an effort to achieve a peaceful solution to the Kurdish and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) problem. If one is to be entitled to outrage because of injustices, this brave woman would have this right. But she did not choose what was simple, and despite the fact that she was aware of the pressure and criticism subsequent to it, she made a call for peace to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a time of tension.
In sum, Zana said to the prime minister: “You could end this war; you have the strength to do it. The spilling of blood must be stopped now.” This was a strong call and a move that could fill the void left by the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) lack of statesmanship. Due to this void the BDP’s politics have failed to become subjective, to overcome the war paradigm or to remain unaffected by the PKK. The call also showed that the justifiable popular demand of the Kurdish people that Zana gave voice to could make it to the political stage by reliance on strong discourse and language like hers. This call also served as a beacon of hope for the people who have been hopeless due to recent sabotages and attacks. The subsequent meeting between Erdoğan and Zana represented a fairly important breakthrough. The meeting demonstrated that regardless of the barriers and difficulties, it was possible to develop a commonly agreed upon language and discourse of peace. The constructive messages delivered following the summit verified this.
When it was first introduced in 2009, the Kurdish opening was considered something that would resolve the problem within a few months. The bar of expectation was set high; this was so because both Kurds and Turks are tired of this war in which they have lost their sons. The people wanted the war over; in particular, the Kurdish people, who remained stuck between the state and the PKK, wanted this. Think about a mother who has one son in the army and one in the mountains fighting against the army. Imagine a village where the people attend the funeral of a martyred soldier and of a PKK militant at the same time. They do not have the comfort of those who gained status out of this clash. Mothers want to see the war over because they do not want their sons in a coffin. Some 40,000 people have died in this dirty war. While they were dying, the war and the deep state won. Turkey has been unable to democratize during this process. Governors and rulers and Gladio members with ill intentions became rich out of this conflict. Guardianship figures and pro-junta military servicemen became popular and prestigious due to the fight against the PKK. They ignored Parliament. In short, this war has made the entire country miserable.
However, it was assumed that the organization that survived in this three-decade-long war and the state bureaucracy would both give up on their goals in this war. But serious preparation was needed for peace. The paradigm should have been shifted. The state made a big mistake by negotiating the fundamental rights of the Kurds with the PKK. For this reason, the state acted slowly in recognizing the rights of the Kurds. However, it is not possible to eliminate the PKK by war. The popular base that it relies on should have been addressed first. To do this, you should take away the reasons for war that the PKK takes refuge in.
The disproportionately violent response to the protesters in a political rally jointly organized by the BDP and the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) in Diyarbakır is something that could serve the PKK interests. It is unfortunate that the state is still unaware of it. Not allowing the demonstration is a whole different story and problem. But even if the demonstration was held without permission, the state should realize that such a strong response to the people who attended the rally, including elected deputies, makes them angry and outraged.
Besides, this rising rage and violence is laying down mines on the path of peace that Zana is attempting to build. The PKK uses this opportunity well. The BDP will not come around to Zana’s terms anyway. The change will be achieved when the Zana contingent becomes stronger. To do this, the state should pay attention to the Kurdish people and avoid offensive acts while dealing with the PKK. The state of affairs in the region should be read and interpreted carefully and the state should avoid traps. I believe that the state fell into one such trap in Diyarbakır.