The key to opening Öcalan’s prison lock: AK Party deputies of the East, Southeast by MEHMET YILMAZ*
Abdullah Öcalan’s roadmap has been brought to life by the DTP’s decision to resign from Parliament and terrorist leader Murat Karayılan’s call to Kurdish youths to go up to the mountains and participate in mass demonstrations.
What are these developments?
One of these encompasses the messages that Abdullah Öcalan has been sending to the public for the past two weeks from prison on İmralı Island where he is serving a life sentence. In a meeting with his lawyers on Dec. 4, Öcalan threatened the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which began the democratic initiative process, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He described the government’s policies aimed at ending the Kurdish issue as an attempt at “elimination.” He issued a clear challenge, emphasizing that if they continued down this path, their end would be similar to those of Erbakan and Özal: “If the AK Party tries to bring about the elimination [of the Kurdish people] through this process, then within two to three months, before the spring even arrives, they themselves will be eliminated. I’m also telling Kurds, they must thoroughly understand this elimination process and approach it seriously.”
Following this “threat,” the streets have been rife with activity. The masses are spilling onto the streets, using Öcalan’s new accommodations at İmralı as an excuse. It’s clear that Öcalan is rather discomfited that he is not one of the parties being addressed as part of the democratic initiative process. He even risked the elimination of the DTP in order to sabotage the process.
This intention of his wasn’t hidden in his meeting with his lawyers on Dec. 11 (two days before the DTP was shut down). “It’s not the end of the world; even if they’re shut down they will continue their struggle and proceed with their work,” Öcalan said, also stating clearly who he thought should be taken as the new political addressee as part of the political process: “These latest developments show that the public is also attached to me. There are dozens of groups within the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. The groups on the mountains are all autonomous; I’m the only one who can control them, I’m the only one who can disarm them. For a decisive solution to this problem -- and I don’t know how it’ll happen -- Parliament must make a decision. And in order for this to happen, the path in front of me must be cleared.”
Öcalan isn’t even willing for the DTP to play a “partial role” in Turkey’s democratization. According to him, a solution to the Kurdish issue is only possible if he is taken as an addressee to the efforts. In any other case, he’ll spur the “autonomous” militants into action and turn the nation into a battleground. As he gives his message to his supporters, Öcalan, who threatens that “if the correct method isn’t made clear, the AK Party will also come to an end,” pulled the plug on the DTP before the Constitutional Court did: “If the path isn’t cleared for a democratic solution, the KCK [Kurdish Democratic Confederation] will make its own path. Whether war or peace, it will decide for itself.”
Öcalan’s roadmap has been brought to life -- despite Ahmet Türk, among the party’s old leaders, making “mild” and “common-sense” statements after his party was shut down -- by the DTP’s decision to resign from Parliament, and terrorist leader Murat Karayılan’s call to Kurdish youths to go up to the mountains and participate in mass demonstrations.
Here, the DTP’s decision to resign is very important. The standing down of a party that entered Parliament by public vote and said that the Kurdish issue needed to be solved through politics, immediately brings the DTP onto the same page as the PKK, which aims to increase terrorism, and its urban arm, the KCK. This viewpoint was confirmed by Karayılan, who said the DTP needed to actively and officially exit Parliament at the same time as Türk and his colleagues were meeting in Diyarbakır over what they should do.
That’s the brief picture of Öcalan, the KCK, the PKK and the DTP front. The AK Party’s initiative is described as the elimination of Öcalan and the PKK. The disappearance of the DTP from the political arena is exacerbated by the DTP deputies’ decision to leave Parliament. In this way, it is hoped that İmralı will become the sole addressee for the Kurds in the process.
So what’s the situation on the AK Party front?
The government appears to be determined on the issue of the initiative. At every opportunity, it says the PKK will be eliminated. One sign of this decisiveness was Prime Minister Erdoğan bringing the issue of the need to disable the militants hiding in the Kandil Mountains to the agenda during his meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.
Another point on which the government is firm is reforms, which make up the second leg of the initiative process. Erdoğan says there will be no backpedaling on this issue: “We will take this process not to the political leaders, but to the people.” Erdoğan’s words indicate that even if the AK Party must stand alone, it will continue to act decisively on the initiative. Erdoğan, who aims to emerge from general elections in 2011 as a single party power once more, is clearly determined: “Youths cannot willingly be sent off to their deaths. We’re not going to give everything up to terrorists, terrorist supporters and vampires. We insist upon democracy, the initiative, unity and brotherhood.”
The democratic initiative project, which aims to put a stop to the bloodshed the terrorist PKK has caused for the last 25 years, will certainly achieve success, Erdoğan says. So how will this success be achieved?
Without a doubt the most important duty falls to the government and the ranks of the AK Party. In order for the seven-year administration to bring tranquility to a country which has recently experienced open acts of provocation, the maximum benefit needs to be drawn from the security forces, the intelligence corps and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). This will require extraordinary effort from the Interior Ministry, which is organizing and overseeing the initiative process.
Also, the AK Party’s representatives and deputies must keep a finger on society’s pulse. The initiative requires excellent performance from the AK Party not just in the East and Southeast, but across Turkey in order to include the public. Increasing awareness of the issue cannot be constrained merely to rallies that Erdoğan holds.
Finally, the AK Party deputies -- and especially those representing eastern and southeastern provinces -- must enter a period where their work pace matches that of Prime Minister Erdoğan, establish contact with regional opinion leaders and speak in a clear and open manner to our citizens of Kurdish descent whose pain, caused by terror, they are trying to redress. If this public diplomacy can be accomplished in the field, if the deputies and party administrators can establish contact with all the people and understand the nature of these provocations that attempt to subvert democracy, then Turkey can easily overcome the turbulence that it has encountered, and the work of those who attempt to disable the democratic parliamentary system will be thwarted.
*Mehmet Yılmaz is the publication editor of the Zaman daily.