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January 25, 2013, Friday

Is the PKK exhausted?

With peace negotiations having begun, many commentators argue that we are on the verge of possible peace. There are very few of us who are not so optimistic about the possibility. Although there are commentators who think that the international players, such as Iran, Syria, Israel and even America, would not want the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to lay down its weapons, I am not one of them.

I think that the PKK would desist because there is no convincing evidence that laying down arms is beneficial to the PKK at this stage. There is no reason for the PKK to even begin thinking about stopping its activities.

With this in mind, when I ask why the PKK would desist, the answer is that the PKK, too, has realized that the armed struggle is not a solution. The PKK is exhausted and therefore no longer wants to fight. Abdullah Öcalan's brother, Osman Öcalan, who was a commander in the PKK for a long time but left the organization in 2004, offered a similar argument.

Is it really true that the PKK is exhausted?

There are two major problems with this argument. It is true that the Kurdish people are tired of fighting and they want to end this war. Many commentators relate the feelings of the Kurds towards the fight with the views of the PKK. They think that because the Kurds are tired of fighting, the PKK must be tired as well.

They are misled by the fact that the PKK is an organization that emerged out of an exhausted society. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Kurdish society was so depressed and tired of fighting as it saw the dead bodies of its sons and daughters, but the PKK grew and grew as the society went into a deep depression. Therefore, relating the Kurdish society's depressed attitude to war may not put pressure on the PKK to accept a depressed world view toward the fight. In fact, on many occasions the PKK used this depression and presented itself as the hope of this society. That is how the PKK long maintained its existence.

In addition, yes many Kurds are exhausted from the fight; however, pro-PKK Kurds in particular don't want the PKK to lay down its weapons. They believe that the PKK is their guardian and they want it to be armed and ready to fight for their own benefit. If the PKK lays down its arms and desists, many supporters of the PKK in urban centers and rural villages might feel that they are going to be persecuted by the state, be penalized by the local village guards or by people who did not support the PKK and were punished by it. Thus, unless they have some form of assurance that their support for the PKK would not be punished after it lays down its arms, they will not want the PKK to do so.

Unlike many commentators who argue that the PKK is exhausted, there is no evidence to support this argument. In fact, there is much evidence in support of the contrary. For instance, the PKK gained a sizable advantage by establishing its own autonomous Kurdish region in Syria. Why would PKK members feel they are exhausted when they are establishing a new state in Syria? In fact the opposite is true. They are enjoying this success and are thankful for their weapons and fighting attitude and consider the gain in Syria as an ultimate victory.

Sadly, let's face it -- it is a reality that because of our state's shortsighted vision it allowed the PKK to gain a great advantage in Syria. It is a fact that while the PKK was engaging Turkish authorities at the negotiation table, the PKK was busy with its preparations in Syria to gain more power.

Furthermore, the PKK believes that without an intensified fight, the state would not make the effort of going to Öcalan and requesting the step of possible negotiations. It was not the PKK that asked to resume the negotiations; it was the state that asked Öcalan to resume talks to end the violence. Therefore, the PKK leaders have the perception that their fight has paid off and they arrived at the negotiation table stronger than ever.

Under these circumstances it is not so convincing to think that the PKK is exhausted enough for it to want to broker peace.

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