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June 20, 2012, Wednesday

Where is Turkey making mistakes on the PKK issue?

An attack occurred at the Dağlıca-Derecik military outpost near Şemdinli, Hakkari, at a time when there was the possibility of high expectations concerning the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) issue. In the attack, eight soldiers died and 16 were wounded. We also know that 10 PKK militants died in the clashes.

If you ask what will happen in the aftermath, I would say that by the time you are reading this column, the Turkish army would have already started a cross border operation. Sadly, we will receive new reports of deaths. There will be more losses and more pain. We know that because we have been sick of experiencing the same scenario for 30 years. We are running out of patience.

Just one day earlier, we were hoping that peace could be made this year; however, amidst these hopes, we received news of a grave attack. Even though we should have become familiar with this by now, such incidents ruin us. Our faith in peace is destroyed, and our culture of coexistence is disrupted. Thank God that our culture is so strong that despite 40,000 losses, there is still no possibility of a domestic war in this country. With the exception of provocations, the people are still not hostile to each other.

What is it that we are doing wrong? What is the solution? What is the critical detail that we do not see? I keep thinking all the time why we are at the same place in this problem because I am aware that if we do not resolve this problem, it will tear us apart some day. The deep state and Ergenekon is still alive in this country, hoping for a domestic war between Turks and Kurds or an economic crisis. This also corresponds to the PKK and Syria as well. Every single day without a resolution makes the issue more complicated and turns it into a regional crisis.

Given that we have failed to resolve the issue, there must be a problem with the method; and yes, Turkey’s way of dealing with the PKK and Kurdish issue has been all wrong since the beginning.

Above all, the Turkish state has adopted a different approach to this problem with the arrival of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. It redefined the problem by acknowledging the existence of the Kurds. But this was not sufficient. The problems between the state and the Kurdish people -- including the right to an education in the mother tongue -- has been negotiated with the PKK. This equated the PKK with the Kurdish issue. As if the PKK was representing all Kurds, the issue of fundamental rights was discussed with this organization. This raised the misperception that once these rights were recognized, the PKK would silence the guns.

By this misperception, the state attributed excessive power to the PKK. The state considered that the Kurdish issue might be resolved if PKK demands were met. However, the PKK was not such an organization; and Turkey was not the Turkey of the 1990s. The PKK had become a complicated entity where different decision-making bodies emerged. Otherwise, they would not have sabotaged their leader Abdullah Öcalan by staging the Silvan attack. The recent Dağlıca attack occurred shortly after an interview by journalist Avni Özgürel with Kandil’s number one, Murat Karayılan. Karayılan did not take responsibility for Silvan. He argued that the attack was the responsibility of local independent groups and had led to a disaster, adding that they were ready for peace. But what happened? A few days after this message, the most recent attack took place, and this time, Karayılan was effectively finished.

Then who is the leader of the PKK? If Karayılan could be finished so easily, either Karayılan was lying or the organization is not under his control. What should the state do then? To which actor should it talk? How can it ensure that the agreement they have reached will be honored? This means that this method is not working because it is based on easy solutions. The state thinks that negotiation with the PKK will resolve the problem. No, it is not going to happen because the PKK is a multi-centered organization. Moreover, parts of Syria are under the control of Ergenekon, while some hawkish actors do not want to lose their status by the end of warfare. What should Turkey do then? It should focus on Kurdish citizens and separate the PKK and the demands of the Kurdish people in its mind. The fundamental rights of the Kurdish people, including the right to education in the mother tongue, should be recognized immediately. If necessary, constitutional guarantee should be introduced to ensure that the Kurds enjoy all of the rights associated with citizenship. In addition, a more careful approach should be adopted in Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) operations so that the perception suggesting that there is strong pressure upon the Kurdish political movement is broken. In this case, the legitimacy of the PKK would be a matter of controversy and discussion.

Turkey became hopeful of peace after an interview with Karayılan; but these hopes faded away with an attack the next day. This is not an issue that can be easily resolved.

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