KCK is short for “Koma Ciwaken Kurdistan,” or Kurdish Communities Union. The KCK executive council chairman is Murat Karayılan, who is also the acting leader of the organization. The KCK is a buffer organization that was set up to serve as a bridge between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Democratic Society Party (DTP). In other words, it is an organization structured by the PKK with the purpose of entering society, is filled with people that have come down from the mountains and is the place where legal Kurdish politics turns to find men that will work for it. In a sense, it is an urbanized 2010 version of the PKK.
The timing of the operations against the KCK, the detention of some elected officials, the images of handcuffed people and the method of the operation inevitably sparked some criticism. Above everything, the incident was perceived as if Turkey was giving into another “security perspective.” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s determination to pursue the democratic initiative “no matter what it costs” on the one hand and practices that block the process on the other hand are typical displays of an “eclipse of reason.” Moreover, it’s evident that there is a desire to blame every detention and arrest made to the east of the Euphrates on a certain segment of the society to distort the target. While Turkey wants to solve the Kurdish problem and bring the PKK down from the mountains under the democratic initiative, it is pushing the DTP to take up arms in the mountains by closing down the party and obstructing civilian politics. Riddled with paradoxes, the process is fumbling to find the right direction. By the nature of the problem, the difficulties can be understood to a certain extent. However, mistakes in method can cause the process to fail after a certain period. It is hard to understand why the state refuses to develop a civilian self-criticism process among Kurds against the irrational actions of the PKK and KCK. The closure of the DTP, the arrest of civilian politicians and the emergence of a mood that resembles the 1994 process is pushing non-politicized Kurds to the PKK side. This makes the PKK very pleased with developments.
‘Tidal’ politics are creating a ‘sincerity and trust’ problem between the government and Kurds. The PKK or the KCK, which is a version of the PKK but with members that don’t want to go to the mountains, immediately replace members that are detained or arrested with new members and can mobilize Kurds to take action by arousing a feeling of victimization among them
Can Turkey go back to the 1990s?
Turkey still can’t overcome the impact of past events and can’t stop thinking with past concepts. First of all, there is a serious problem in the approach to diagnose the problem. The traditional statist approach sees the PKK as the fundamental cause of the Kurdish issue and believes the problem cannot be solved unless the PKK is eliminated. This approach, which was prevalent during the 1990s, was disproved many times, but unfortunately it still remains. From time to time, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) falls into this trap, making it unable to create a balance between democracy and security.
While taking Democracy Party (DEP) members from Parliament by force in 1994 was clearly a mistake that obstructed democratic politics, the repetition of the same mistakes today creates many questions. The “eclipse of reason and foresight” in 1994 cost Turkey heavily for 15 years. Even though it’s not possible for Turkey to return to its “1994 initiative,” the recent raids have created a serious level of aversion and loss of trust between the Kurds and the ruling power.
As has been widely explained in literature, the PKK is a result. It is the result of an insolvable centuries-old Kurdish problem. If you do not solve the problem, even if you were to finish off the PKK, another organization would head to the mountains and take up arms. In this respect, those who know the practices of the recent past know that using the one-directional “public order” mentality which was applied to eliminate the PKK in the past to finish off the KCK today is nothing more than an ineffective effort. The KCK is not the Kurdish issue itself: it is just one of its consequences, and if you believe that you can solve the problem by eliminating the KCK then you are fooling yourself. This approach also sends the message, “No, don’t come, stay in the mountains,” to those that want to lay down their arms, intermix with city life, find a job and get married, which is a situation that creates another contradiction.
A Kurdish initiative without Kurds?
The democratic initiative process has been moving forward with an agenda that has been constantly changing since June. Even though the recent KCK operation has hindered the process, this does not mean the process has ended. Even though the DTP’s closure and the raids against the KCK have provided anticipated positional gains in the short run, it will lead to the consolidation of the “Öcalan myth and hegemony” in the long run. Without knowing it, the state is turning segments of society over to Abdullah Öcalan’s initiative with its own hand. The inability to properly understand the “cause-effect” relationship is creating unforeseen consequences.
Most importantly, “tidal” politics are creating a “sincerity and trust” problem between the government and Kurds. The PKK or the KCK, which is a version of the PKK but with members that don’t want to go to the mountains, immediately replace members that are detained or arrested with new members and can mobilize Kurds to take action by arousing a feeling of victimization among them.
Turkey, which is trying to determine a path in the wake of the PKK’s grapevine propaganda, is actually stalling its development by postponing a solution to the problem. The state mentality is not only unable to manage the process but is also not good at perception management.
The perception of elimination is blocking the way of the initiative…
In a recent visit to the region, many people said the DTP’s closure and the raids against the KCK “consolidated the PKK’s control over Kurdish politics” and pointed out the mistakes in the methods used in the process.
The image of elected mayors in handcuffs and lined up as if outside a detention camp has disturbed not only organized Kurds but conservative Kurds as well. The DTP explains that these developments are a result of the government’s approach to lead a “Kurdish initiative without Kurds.” The image of handcuffed mayors has also weakened the AK Party’s psychological superiority in the region.
While some opinion leaders in the region evaluate the recent developments as the government’s desire to “eliminate the DTP and PKK,” DTP supporters argue that the AK Party’s goal is not to solve the Kurdish problem but to eliminate organized Kurds. When statements from the DTP, the PKK and Öcalan are carefully examined, you can see that the most commonly used concept is “elimination.” No matter how radical of a reform it implements or how big a step its takes, the government will not be able to obtain the results it expects from the initiative process as long as it does not change its “perception of elimination.”
Ultimately, even if questions arise because the democratic initiative process does not follow a linear line and has major fluctuations, the level of democratic maturity Turkey has reached and the new dynamics that have entered the Kurdish initiative are evidence that this process is irreversible. The problem is caused not only by the mismanagement of the process but also by the magnitude and nature of the issue.
*Hüseyin Yayman is a lecturer at Gazi University.