ETYEN MAHÇUPYAN

e.mahcupyan@todayszaman

ETYEN MAHÇUPYAN
July 05, 2012, Thursday

Last chance, but for who?

There is one point that those who analyze the Kurdish issue through a pro-Kurdish political lens have been raising: The current Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) administration could be the last chance for a peaceful solution.

What is meant by this is that the new generations in the predominantly Kurdish areas are more hawkish than the PKK administration, and would rather fight against the state than negotiate with it. There is an unavoidable observation in this argument: The young generation of Kurds that support the PKK have not experienced a state of peace in their childhood; the only thing they have experienced is war and conflict. These young people do not have a period of non-violence in their lifetime that they can use as a comparison to their current state. Therefore, we are talking about generations that have matured in wartime conditions and shaped their personalities around the circumstances associated with this conflict. It is not surprising to see that these people have minimal expectations from civil politics.

The political meaning of this assessment is that the Turkish state needs to move fast in order to attain peace. If leaders like Abdullah Öcalan and Murat Karayılan lose their prestige, or have difficulty controlling the PKK, it is most likely that the new generations will follow the footsteps of hostile mid-level leaders including Cemil Bayık or Fehman Hüseyin. However, it is not proper to consider the Kurdish issue as an independent phenomenon, separate from the current transformation of the Turkish mindset. Over the last decade, Turkey has been making efforts to integrate with the world and narrow the gap between its developed and underdeveloped regions. In other words, the predominantly Kurdish areas are getting rid of their second-class ranking, and Kurdish families and businessmen are now more eager for the arrival of peace and a democratic solution. However, unlike in the past, these demands are not an expression of alienation. The Kurds are now calling for unity and integration with the people of Turkey, but based on a new constitution. Therefore, we are living in a period where a discourse of conflict and violence does not attract attention, and Kurdish politics are expected to be more constructive.

It is hard to argue now that the PKK has its own appeal. The primary reason people support the PKK is obviously due to the mistakes made by the government. The Dağlıca assault that took place in such an environment led to some reactions that differed from those in the past, especially since now there are clear signs indicating that a solution is attainable. A large segment of society wants the war to be over, and US involvement in the situation helps to maintain contact between all of the parties involved. The constructive relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey and the recent interviews by Leyla Zana and Karayılan point to this new opportunity for a real solution. For this reason, the attack in Dağlıca was viewed as a clear sabotage of peace and a solution, this view is widely held among the Kurds as well.

As known, Karayılan said that such attacks, which took place in times where a solution seemed attainable, were committed by small uncontrollable groups within the organization. We do not know whether he is telling the truth, but this hardly changes anything. If the PKK’s will to block the peace process is so strong, or if the organization falls into the hands of those who want to block peace, it is inevitable that the PKK will swiftly move towards illegal acts. It is important to remember that the PKK has always been outlawed, but its legitimacy has never been questioned in the Kurdish areas because it was seen as a legitimate balancing actor vis-à-vis the state, which did not want to attain a solution. But now there is a government that actually wants a solution, and a process of negotiation that would make this solution fair and viable. In such a case, the PKK will have to pay a huge price if it insists on adhering to violent methods and using violence to sabotage efforts for peace.

Looking at the situation from this angle, it is now necessary to direct the criticism made against the state to the other actors as well: the PKK is currently being administered by the last generation that can attain peace, and if this chance is missed the legitimacy of the Kurdish resistance will be eroded. This will mean that the rights of Kurds will be dependent upon Turkey’s democratization, and that pro-Kurdish politics will be less significant and influential. We are at the juncture where those who are not prepared for peace will lose and pro-Kurdish politics seem to be as fragile as the state.

Columnists
Previous articles of the columnist