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November 21, 2012, Wednesday

Winners and losers

Kurdish inmates were in their 68th day of a collective hunger strike when they stopped on Sunday after a call by jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan.

The fact that hundreds of Kurdish inmates did not heed calls from the government or civil society to end their hunger strike but only did so after Öcalan appealed to them led some columnists to conclude that the protest served as a display of power for Öcalan.

If we were to discern the losers and winners in this hunger strike crisis, Bugün’s Gülay Göktürk says, although they did not lose their lives, thank God, the striking inmates would be among the losers as it is clear that the terrorist organization was prepared to sacrifice them. In fact, the inmates were supposed to die, according to the PKK’s plans. Öcalan, on the other hand, was surely a winner. He proved himself to be a leader whose one word was enough to end the strike of hundreds of people. However, he “won” only because the government allowed him to do so by letting him meet with his brother, who conveyed his call to the strikers. In another way of putting this, the state used Öcalan to solve this crisis.

As for the other losers, the PKK and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) are the two main losers in this crisis as the PKK was the one who forced the inmates to start the strike in the first place while the BDP was fueling tensions and trying to expand the scope of the strike. Another loser in the crisis are the leftists who call themselves “democratic intellectuals.” Göktürk explains that those leftists supported the strikers from the beginning and urged the government to realize the strikers’ demands but never turned to the PKK leadership and asked, “Why don’t you join the strike; do you want to kill those inmates?” These leftists only care about weakening the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and nothing else, and they used those inmates as tools for their chronic animosity against the AK Party, she thinks.

Milliyet’s Hasan Cemal, like some other columnists, is hopeful about achieving peace in the Kurdish issue through cooperation between the government and Öcalan. He thinks that any peace project that is designed by excluding Öcalan will be easily sabotaged by other PKK leaders. The only name that can avoid a possible sabotage is Öcalan. But it all depends on the government’s political will and willingness to cooperate with him, Cemal notes.

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