ERGUN BABAHAN

Karayılan and the Kurdish issue

Reports about Iran catching the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) military wing’s number one, Murat Karayılan, has created much excitement in Turkey.

The feelings of admiration for Iran were mixed with trust that the PKK has been dealt a fatal blow. Reports have yet to be confirmed, but Karayılan has not made a media appearance to deny them. Let us suppose the news is correct. Can such a development be considered a sign of the imminent end of the PKK? Absolutely not. It only indicates that the leadership struggle within the PKK has heated up and that pro-Iranian executives or militants dominate the organization.

Given the fact that even the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan could not put an end to the terrorist organization, we can safely assume that Karayılan’s capture will make no difference either, except that it may trigger a bloody period of reckoning within the organization.

The PKK has managed to survive without much reliance on its leaders. Moreover, it can derive support from the people in the region; otherwise, it would be unable to continue. What will end the PKK once and for all is if the local people stop supporting it, which in turn entails the government listening to the Kurds’ demands.

Ankara’s approach and the region’s demands are poles apart. The so-called Kurdish initiative could not be implemented, to the great disappointment of the people in the region. Added to this is the impasse in the talks with Öcalan on the island of İmralı, making the picture all the more bleak.

However, despite the influence of the organization’s members in the mountains, only Öcalan has the power to stop the violence.

No one can pursue policies in the region or continue to act as militants in the mountains or even recruit new militants by ignoring Öcalan. Talks with Öcalan were interrupted, even though he had said that he could move his militants outside the country in one week. Reports of killed soldiers have started to pour in. Every day, there are several reports of such deaths, which is leading to growing tension in society. This means there is support for a policy that brings solving the PKK issue to the fore. That is, violence will breed greater violence, which means more bloodshed.

We must realize, however, that the armed organization cannot be neutralized if there is growing popular support behind it. There are thousands of young people who are ready to take the place of the militants who are killed. This is why the military solution will not be effective. A more realistic approach is to take serious steps towards a democratic initiative and resume negotiations with Öcalan while consolidating counterterrorism efforts with increased security measures. If house arrest is needed for this, it must be done. Every new funeral makes the democratic solution all the more difficult, destroying the will to live peacefully together.

Today, we need to be brave, not to make threats with good-for-nothing heroic speeches. We need a strong will to settle this poisonous social problem.

By giving 58 percent support to the referendum, despite knowing that the state was conducting talks with Öcalan, Turkey endorsed the policy of settling the Kurdish issue through negotiations. The significance of this support should be properly analyzed and what needs to be done should be done without delay.

2011-08-15