On Monday, a group of 34 people associated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) surrendered at the Habur border gate, on the Turkish-Iraqi border, as the Turkish government is preparing to unveil measures to widen the democratic rights and freedoms of the country's citizens. Eight of the group's members came from the Kandil Mountains, where the PKK has a camp. The rest came from Makhmur, a refugee camp in northern Iraq.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was critical of the attitude of some pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) members as they received the group with jubilation and the crowd chanted slogans in support of the PKK and Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned PKK leader. Upon the arrival of the 34 people, the crowd, which had been waiting since the previous night, was overjoyed.
“Is the attitude seen at Habur correct? Is it a unifying attitude? Is it an attitude which makes people uneasy? Is there freedom and peace in the attitude?” the prime minister asked yesterday.
But these calls are falling on deaf ears as some pundits argue the Kurds, tired of a war-like situation in the country's predominantly Kurdish Southeast, are so thirsty for peace that it is normal that they would want to celebrate.
Şah İsmail Bedirhanoğlu, chairman of the Southeastern Anatolia Businessmen's Association (GÜNSİAD), said the move raised hopes for a peaceful solution, though everybody should act with common sense.
One soldier wounded in provocative Hakkari attack
One soldier was wounded in a terrorist assault in Çukurca, Hakkari province, yesterday.
Outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists reportedly launched 10 mortar rounds onto the Dağbaşı military base in Çukurca, patrolled by the third Gendarmerie Commando battalion. The base is near the Iraqi border. Firing back, the soldiers were able to repel the terrorist group. One soldier was wounded in the crossfire.
The wounded soldier was taken from the scene to the Fatih military outpost in Hakkari by helicopter and brought to a military hospital.
The attack came just one day after Tuesday's release of a group of 34 people comprising mainly refugees and outlawed PKK militants by Turkish authorities.
The group of 34 turning themselves over to Turkey is considered a symbolic move by the PKK initiated by the group's jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, who has urged the PKK to send what he calls “peace groups” to Turkey. İstanbul Today's Zaman with wires
“For two days, civil society organizations of Diyarbakır have been saying that such exaggerated celebrations might be harmful to the process. This issue is very sensitive and can be used to score political points,” he told Today's Zaman.
He added that the DTP and other parties should act with common sense and refrain from inflammatory statements.
Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal and Nationalistic Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli both claimed on Tuesday while addressing their parties' parliamentary groups that the government was surrendering to the PKK.
Esat Canan, a former CHP deputy before being elected to the council of the DTP, told Today's Zaman that other parties should refrain from nationalistic speeches, but the same nationalism is also present in the DTP.
“It is true that there are nationalistic elements in the DTP, but the DTP leadership, especially Chairman Ahmet Türk, is acting with common sense. The DTP will not act irresponsibly and will not allow irresponsible acts within the party. The aim is to have peace so that all social segments of Turkey can be convinced,” he said.
However, he also said Kurds who suffered much during the last decade have a strong desire for peace and it is normal that they would want to celebrate an event which might be the beginning of the peace process.
Seydi Fırat from the Peace Council, a civil society organization aiming at a peaceful solution, said the celebrations will end soon and the atmosphere will be calm.
Fırat himself was also a former PKK member and surrendered to Turkish authorities in 1999 with a group of his friends upon a request by Öcalan. But when they surrendered, he and his friends were sent to prison. Fırat helped the recent group come from northern Iraq to Turkey.
“The West should not be shy. It is normal for Kurds to receive these people with joy. They are not trying to exploit the situation; they are happy about an opportunity for peace,” Fırat told Today's Zaman.
Mazhar Bağlı, a sociologist from Dicle University and a member of the Central Decision and Administration Board (MKYK) of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), claimed that the DTP and pro-Kurdish circles are trying to hide the feeling of being "losers."
“In order to cover up the feeling of being losers, they are calling themselves ‘peace envoys' and holding exaggerated celebrations. But there are also many people in the region who are really hoping for peace and dreaming about their children's return from the mountains so that they can lead a real life,” he told Today's Zaman.
He added that this is the success of the AK Party and Prime Minister Erdoğan.
Nevertheless, conservative Kurdish intellectual Altan Tan said the exaggerated celebrations are a mistake of the AK Party and Erdoğan.
“Common sense required another order. First, democratizations had to be finished. Second, good relations had to be established with northern Iraq. And only when the whole society understands the process is not leading to any separation in the country should the return of these people have been discussed,” he said.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan said his government is not going to turn its back on the democratic initiative despite efforts to block it because ethnic separatism cannot divide Turkey.
“I am from Rize and my wife is from Siirt. Look, we are together. This means we do not know any separatism,” Erdoğan said in Ağrı yesterday.
Justice minister: We won't interfere in prosecution
Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said the ministry would not interfere in the process of prosecution of the PKK members in the event that the office of the prosecutor finds it appropriate.
He was speaking in regards to the detention of some members of the PKK returning home. Prosecutors on Tuesday had said five members of the group should stand trial for their membership in the terrorist PKK. Four children were exempted from interrogation. Eventually, they were all released.
“As a minister, it would not be possible for me to influence the process,” Ergin said, responding to journalists.
When some reporters asked when new prisoners would be sent to İmralı, where Öcalan is serving a prison term, Ergin said information will be shared with the public when there are new developments.
Ergin also said that there is no change expected in the repentance law.
The latest of those laws was put into effect under Article 221 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), also known as the “Active Repentance Law.” The article stipulates that terrorists who surrender to security forces will be released without punishment as long as they have not been involved in any armed clashes with security forces or any other terrorist attacks against Turkey.