PKK tutelage over pro-Kurdish politics under question
Osman Baydemir was recently the target of angry criticism from PKK leader Öcalan. The exchange between the two may mark the start of a new era in Kurdish politics.
The polemic between outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, reactions to the polemic, increased class struggle within Kurdish society and attempts from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) to capture some of the Kurdish votes has brought PKK tutelage over pro-Kurdish politics into the spotlight.
The pundits stress that the search for a third way in pro-Kurdish politics is accelerating. According to them, this third force, which will be free from both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) -- a party frequently accused of being unable to step outside the shadow of the PKK -- is essential for a solution to the Kurdish question. However, this third force should not necessarily be a political party; it can be a loose movement based on civil society.
Mazhar Bağlı, a sociologist from Dicle University and an executive member of the AK Party, told Sunday’s Zaman that such a third force is absolutely necessary for the solution to the Kurdish question.
“Both in the western part of Turkey as well as in the eastern, public opinion is no longer willing to accept tutelage over its own demands. This new force should be civilian, nonviolent and should correspond with the Kurdish society and its demands,” he said.
Bağlı cited Öcalan’s recent criticism of Baydemir, emphasizing that developments surrounding this subject should be reframed as the struggle for tutelage.
“The PKK is openly saying that they do not want to share their power with a civilian structure. The threats toward Baydemir are just an attempt to reverse this process, which is against their tutelage,” Bağlı said.
Baydemir recently said that “guns are not a means to solve the problem; the role of guns in the 21st century is finished,” drawing the ire of Öcalan. The PKK leader, who is serving a life sentence on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara, told Baydemir through his lawyers to resign, engage in self-criticism or join the AK Party.
Öcalan targeted Baydemir, saying: “I know the youngsters of Diyarbakır. They will rip his mouth out. They will not allow him to say those kinds of words,” the Turkish media reported on Tuesday.
Baydemir did not comment on Öcalan’s statements, but BDP Co-chairperson Gülten Kışanak expressed her support for Baydemir, saying she appreciated the criticism offered by Öcalan but noted that Baydemir had done nothing wrong.
“Everybody has the freedom to criticize, and Öcalan used this right. He can be critical of anyone, he can be critical toward Baydemir, toward me,” she said. But the BDP officials refused to elaborate on the issue further and tried to downplay the polemic between Öcalan and Baydemir.
Sedat Laçiner from the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), while analyzing the issue to Sunday’s Zaman on Wednesday, recalled the alleged negotiations between state security forces and Öcalan, who is in a hurry to obtain results from the ongoing dialogue as he will lose his bargaining power. That is why he is reacting so strongly to Baydemir’s comments.
According to media reports, Öcalan also told his lawyers that, according to Turkish public opinion, those kinds of people (Baydemir) should be interlocutors (instead of Öcalan).
Laçiner stressed that there is already a rift in pro-Kurdish circles; the number of people who do not support violence is growing and, despite the ongoing dialogue between the PKK and the state, there are forces within the PKK that do not want to lay down their arms.
Bağlı also argues that class conflict within the Kurdish society is becoming more obvious.
“I think this class rift will widen. Different classes use different methods to search for their rights, even if the rights are the same. The rapid urbanization, strengthening of the Kurdish middle and upper-middle classes and increasing levels of education bring with them class distinction. For the bourgeoisie, the idea of guns as a method of claiming rights is not legitimate, unlike for the working class,” he said, giving the different attitudes of the Kurds toward the referendum on a constitutional reform package as an example.
The BDP urged its supporters to boycott the referendum on constitutional amendments on Sept. 12, but some pro-Kurdish circles did not heed these calls.
According to Bağlı, those who voted for the referendum were primarily from the upper or middle class and educated professionals. This in no way means that they do not have demands for Kurdish society.
Şah İsmail Bedirhanoğlu, chairman of the Southeastern Anatolia Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (GÜNSİAD), noted that Kurds are not a homogenous society. There are different political views and the dominance of the BDP cannot be denied.
“But there is rapid social change within Kurdish society, reflected in the number of people who think that violence is not a viable method but who hold that denying Kurds their rights as a group is also unacceptable. Those people are from the middle or upper class and are intellectuals, tradesmen and professionals. In the near future they may gain strength and grow,” he noted.
He said that, regardless of their political views, education in Kurdish is the key issue for all Kurds. He added that Kurds also agree on the need to strengthen local administrations in the Southeast, but not all of them want the vague “democratic autonomy” demanded by the PKK and the BDP. The final basic principle of the “third force” is, he said, the lowering of the 10 percent election threshold.
The CHP is a candidate for being the meeting place of the Kurds who are in search of a third way, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu claimed.
While visiting Diyarbakır recently, he said the CHP can be the third way in that the AK Party is based on religious ideas and the BDP on ethnic politics. “The people want this third way,” he claimed.
Kılıçdaroğlu added that Kurds have demands, which is natural, but that ethnic politics is wrong and a trap that leads to separation. If we can solve the basic problems, then there will be no need for ethnic politics,” he said.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, former chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association and a possible future member of the CHP, said the lack of a third option, besides the AK Party and the BDP, is not bringing a solution.
“But the CHP should meet with the general principles of democracy. It should use a positive discourse rather than negative, as it did in the past. The more it uses this positive discourse, the more it will gain strength in the region,” Tanrıkulu told Sunday’s Zaman.
He recalled that when the dialogue between Öcalan and the state began, Kılıçdaroğlu did not object to the development, but said that if the dialogue will offer a solution, it is for the best.
“His attitude legitimized the dialogue,” Tanrıkulu said.
Bağlı agrees with Tanrıkulu, although he thinks the CHP will not become the meeting place of those searching for a pro-Kurdish third way.
“I believe that the CHP can play a crucial role in the solution of the Kurdish question. If nationalists within the CHP stop neglecting the existence of the Kurdish question, a solution will be possible,” he said.