‘Kurdish support for reforms prompted PKK to declare cease-fire’

August 22, 2010, Sunday/ 12:09:00
In a move that came as a surprise to many, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which increased its armed violence recently due to an upcoming referendum on constitutional reforms, has declared a cease-fire until Sept. 20.

Considering the fact that the PKK tends to carry out more violent attacks ahead of important and critical moments for Turkey, many have been prompted to question the reasons that made the terrorist organization halt its activities.

On Sept. 12 Turkey will hold a referendum on government-sponsored constitutional reforms. The reform package will, among other things, make the judiciary more democratic and pave the way for the trial of the perpetrators of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup.

While the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which initiated the reforms, is doing its best to ensure the approval of the package, opposition parties such as the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are carrying out a harsh campaign against the reforms. The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), on the other hand, has called on the Kurds in the country’s Southeast to boycott the referendum.

In this political environment filled with political competition and bickering the PKK declared a cease-fire even though it has been a target of criticism by the government, which says the terrorist organization killed many soldiers in recent months in order to sabotage the referendum by increasing tension in the country. Analysts believe that, seeing that its call for a boycott of the referendum will not be heeded by the Kurds, the PKK decided to halt its violence and loosened its call for a boycott out of fear that its image of having full control over Turkey’s Kurds will be damaged.

Security analyst and director of the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK) Sedat Laçiner notes that the PKK was placed in a difficult situation in the Southeast due to its call for a boycott of the referendum, because 90 percent of Turkey’s Kurds would say “yes” to the reforms if they were left to their own will. So it wanted to save itself from this situation by halting its armed activities during the referendum process.

“The boycott decision puts Kurds on the same front with Ergenekon [a shadowy criminal network with alleged links within the state suspected of plotting to topple the government],” Laçiner told Sunday’s Zaman.

Ergenekon is believed to be behind unsolved murders and attacks on Kurds in the Southeast during the 1990s. Kurds want the state to shed full light onto Ergenekon and reveal those behind their suffering.

Another factor that may have prompted the PKK and its jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, to declare a cease-fire, according to Laçiner, is Öcalan’s efforts to get out of jail.

“Öcalan is trying to prove his power or control over the terrorist organization by increasing and lowering violence from time to time,” Laçiner argues.

When the general tendency of the Kurds is to say “yes” to the reforms, it is no longer possible for the PKK to remain indifferent to this tendency, says former Diyarbakır Bar Association head Sezgin Tanrıkulu, adding that the PKK had to take public sentiment into consideration.

Tanrıkulu says if no conflicts take place during the cease-fire period it may open the way for promising developments in the long run and may contribute to a solution to Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem.

“The PKK has seen that the solution of the Kurdish problem is shifting from the hands of the military to the hands of the civilians. So it wants a conflict-free environment in the country,” Tanrıkulu suggests.

Bugün daily’s Gülay Göktürk, who discussed the PKK cease-fire decision and the loosening of its referendum boycott in her column earlier this week, said after realizing that Kurds will not heed the BDP’s call for a boycott and will make their own decisions when they go to the ballot boxes, Öcalan understood that this stance would greatly harm both his image and that of the BDP, so Kurds have been left to their own will.

“This situation teaches us something very important: Even the most oppressive leaders need a certain level of legitimacy. One source of legitimacy is being in the right. If you attempt to make a decision that you cannot explain to your supporters and your decision does not work, no matter how strong you are, you will end up saying in a panic, ‘I order you to do whatever you want,’” Göktürk said.

After the PKK’s cease-fire decision and Öcalan’s announcement, more and more Kurds have begun to voice their support for the package. For instance, the former leader of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), Ahmet Türk, said earlier this week: “To be honest, if there is a choice between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ facing the Kurds, they will say ‘yes.’” Türk added that the Sept. 12, 1980 junta regime victimized Kurds the most. İstanbul Sunday’s Zaman

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