Reports published in the Taraf and Milliyet dailies informed us on Thursday, at least partly, of a new Kurdish plan the state has devised.
Considering how it has not been denied so far, we may conclude that the source of this information was the government and that the information revealed is true.
In fact, even the mode by which it was made public deserves closer and deeper analysis. At a time when Turkey had a bloody Nevruz, and six soldiers and seven Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants were killed in Cudi Mountain, the government preferred publicizing this plan by reliance on such indirect means. This in fact proves that the government is experiencing hardships in dealing with this issue. It could be argued that the current state of affairs where the government feels desperate is normal given the gravity of the problem, the public reaction and the PKK’s reliance on greater violence. But this is not new. There have been worse times during the last three decades. In this current setting, the gravity of the issue is relevant and important; but the change within the inherent dynamics of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) should also be taken into consideration.
Let me review the new concept. We could summarize the fundamentals and roadmap in this concept as follows:
In dealing with the Kurdish issue, only civilian methods will be employed; no other means will be considered.
There will be no talks with Abdullah Öcalan on İmralı or with the PKK in Kandil or Europe; they will be removed from the process.
The Kurds living in the Southeast and other parts of Turkey will be saved from the pressure and repression by the PKK and the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK).
This is why the people will be directly considered stakeholders and a solution will be sought through civilian politics.
Only Parliament will be the venue for a solution; no other ground will be considered; a political party or parties not controlled by İmralı or Kandil and elected by popular vote will be taken into account. Talks will be carried out with such parties.
As long as the PKK subscribes to violence, an armed fight will be carried out against it.
If any talk is to take place with the PKK, this will be on laying down arms.
Once the PKK lays down its arms, the procedure on how to deal with its militants with no legal responsibility will be drafted.
There will be no regulation on the Kurdish identity and autonomy in the new constitution. The new constitution will focus on human rights and the equality of the people before the law.
Local administrations will be empowered; principles of international law will be taken into account.
Barzani’s role important
In addition to items seven and eight, a Kurdish convention will reportedly be held in Arbil in June most likely at which Massoud Barzani will put pressure on the PKK to announce that it has laid down its arms. The convention will be held only if the PKK agrees to abandon violence.
In other words, the number-one subject matter of the congress will be whether the PKK will lay down its arms. This is the most exciting and strongest part of the plan anyway. It is already known that Turkey assigned this issue to Barzani and that Turkey views the solution of the issue as a precondition for constructive relations with the Iraqi Kurdistan region. At this point, if Barzani gets the PKK to abandon its armed struggle, Turkey may arguably withdraw the objections it raised before against the independence of Kurdistan. This is not a bad deal. Above all, the independence of Kurdistan is not something that Turkey could prevent all by itself. Besides, Turkey may benefit from the good intentions and relations with the most stable part of Iraq, which will suffer from civil war.
In principle, Turkey promotes the territorial integrity of Iraq; and it feels close to the Turkmen people in the country; but Turkish foreign policy is mature enough to take advantage of the positive momentum in connection with an unarmed PKK. For Barzani, it is no longer reasonable to remain opposed to a big and friendly country like Turkey, which could serve as a gate to the West for the interests of the PKK. Barzani does not want to risk the opportunity for an autonomous or independent Kurdish state because of the PKK. This is why the PKK issue is an urgent matter for both Turkey and Barzani. Both administrations hold similar visions and motivations with respect to how to deal with the PKK. Going back to the plan, it cannot be said that this is an entirely new plan. In fact, this represents the strategy that the state has been pursuing following the end of the negotiation process by the PKK’s Silvan attack on July 14, 2011, and particularly after the Çukurca assault. In other words, there is no significant difference between the current state of affairs and the declared policy. This even includes Barzani’s role.
The statement that only civilian actors and channels will be considered in the resolution of the Kurdish issue inevitably refers to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) represented in Parliament. As evidenced by the initial reactions by this party to the plan, it becomes apparent that this party would agree to the proposed action plan unless a miracle takes place. Remarks by Aysel Tuğluk, a prominent BDP figure who said: “Referring to the association between Öcalan, the KCK, the PKK and the Democratic Society Congress [DTK] is nothing more than exposing a secret that everybody knows. Just as Öcalan is inside the BDP, the BDP is inside the DTK and even the KCK,” in fact summarizes the overall situation. This is a reality of Turkey. Considering that it is not possible to argue that the government would not know such a basic reality, what could it try to say? Maybe it considers that after the PKK’s defeat, the BDP would become stronger and be forced to take initiative. But could this happen in the short run? Or does it assume that a new political entity other than the BDP would emerge to represent pro-Kurdish politics? This is not something likely in the current state of affairs in Turkey. Could the BDP be dissolved? This is always possible, considering the circumstances and conditions in this country. This would be a huge contribution to the state of irresolution and empowerment of the PKK. One does not need to be a genius to see this.
The plan also frequently notes that political means will be employed for a solution, that Parliament will be picked as the proper venue for this, that there will be no talks with the PKK and Öcalan, that local administrations will be empowered and that the Kurds will be the proper stakeholders in the process. It is also argued that the people in the region will be saved from PKK and KCK pressure. This is a clue that there are attempts to create a new political actor.
After this brief analysis of the plan, let me move on to the role of the AK Party. I think this plan provides insights into the strategy the AK Party would pursue with respect to the Kurdish, PKK and constitution issues up until 2014. In other words, there is nothing new in the plan. The text implies that the state would still resort to violent measures as long as the PKK fights, that it will introduce some mild reforms for the Kurdish people, that there should be no high expectations out of the making of the constitution and that the AK Party actually considers the presidential elections in 2014. This means that the AK Party and the prime minister would not dare take risks or play the lead role in resolving the Kurdish issue and making a new constitution before 2014.
It is understandable for a political party to avoid risks in a normal country. However, if a party has attracted a great deal of popular support because of its struggle against pro-guardianship circles in a country which has been suffering a huge problem for decades and if the pro-guardianship forces consider the survival of the PKK as a major option to deal with that party, remaining inactive and indifferent means that this party is taking the greatest risk. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is confident that there is no alternative to him and the AK Party administration, but he will have missed the opportunities he is wasting now by adopting a reluctant approach in association with the resolution of the Kurdish issue and making a new constitution. Even though he thinks that he is strong, the AK Party is not the “state” yet. The state is still the old one because the reform process remains incomplete.