Hope of Zana, hope for Kurdish issue

Unlike most of the pessimistic and critical statements we typically hear from Kurdish »»

Unlike most of the pessimistic and critical statements we typically hear from Kurdish politicians, Leyla Zana, an independent pro-Kurdish deputy from Diyarbakır, had hopeful and constructive things to say about a recent meeting between Turkey’s ruling party and the main opposition party to discuss a solution to the country’s Kurdish issue.

Zana told the Hürriyet daily on Thursday that she believes Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will solve the Kurdish issue and that she had never lost hope and faith in him.

Bugün’s Ahmet Taşgetiren said Zana’s statements are as significant as the “historic” meeting between the two parties. The columnist also highlighted some of Zana’s suggestions -- including using Kurdish as the main language of instruction in schools in some regions, house arrest for terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and an acknowledgement of a Kurdish nation in the new constitution being drafted -- which he felt were reasonable and worth considering.

Sabah’s Nazlı Ilıcak, on the other hand, argued that while Zana’s statements are all reasonable, it is difficult to forget that the woman we are applauding today was once sentenced to 10 years in prison for making statements such as, “The PKK is not a terrorist organization, it is only struggling for freedom and democracy” and “Öcalan is the leader of the Kurdish people.” Regardless of the content of her statements, the fact that an individual was imprisoned just for expressing views that are contrary to those of the state indicates a big problem with our laws, Ilıcak said.

Cevdet Aşkın from Radikal wrote that when he read Zana’s interview he felt it would cause a break in Kurdish politics. Soon after, pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş told reporters that “if anyone has hopes for the prime minister, that is merely naïveté,” proving the columnist right. Aşkın says Zana’s faith in the prime minister in solving the Kurdish issue indicates that she is ready to take a risk and part ways with the BDP, the PKK and the Democratic Society Congress (DTK). But the PKK will not agree to Zana’s suggestions and the BDP will not risk opposing the PKK either.

However, Aşkın said, at a time when even US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has pledged continued US support to Turkey in its fight against the terrorist PKK gaining hold over southeast Turkey, and the PKK has escalated its attacks and violence toward not only soldiers but civilians as well, Zana’s statements should not be regarded only as “a Kurdish politician’s faith and hope in politics,” but a sincere call from an individual who only wants peace in her country.

Yalçın Akdoğan from the Star daily highlighted parts of Zana’s interview and interpreted them. Zana earlier said “Turks and Kurds are one big family,” implying that unlike the BDP, she believes in the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) discourse of brotherhood amongst all those living in Turkey. “The government’s initiative of setting up the country’s first Kurdish-language TV channel has reminded Kurds of their own language and culture,” Zana said, indicating that she recognized the government’s positive approaches towards the Kurds. Her statement, “The BDP should show that it can serve everyone in Turkey and not only one region -- the Southeast,” shows an accurate evaluation of the BDP’s policies. Lastly, Akdoğan said that Zana’s optimistic stance on the Kurdish issue, criticism of the BDP, the PKK and the ruling party, acknowledgement of the positive moves made by the government as well as suggestions toward solving the issue all show the Kurdish politician to be objective and fair.