Will the Kurdish issue be solved?

Leyla Zana’s statements were not sufficiently covered by the press amid the »»

Leyla Zana’s statements were not sufficiently covered by the press amid the busy agenda in the country, but her message reached its intended recipient.

Hüseyin Çelik, the spokesperson of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), indicated that Zana’s message had been received, and that the party attached importance to it. In his column for the Star newspaper, Yalçın Akdoğan, a source close to the prime minister, analyzed Zana’s words in an effort to show that they had it correct. In short, Zana’s message was welcomed, its importance understood. What had Zana said?

She clearly said that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s efforts to solve the Kurdish issue should be supported. She added that Erdoğan is a mighty prime minister with the power to solve this issue. Zana is a well-respected and radical figure among pro-Kurdish politicians. Because of this identity, she was jailed for 10 years. Occasionally she has incited anger with her harsh statements. A very important detail: Zana was recently sentenced to a further 10 years in prison. Therefore, what she says now is very important. Her remarks coincide with the sentencing of Aysel Tuğluk, another representative figure of pro-Kurdish politics, to four years in prison on charges of praising the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Tuğluk is an intellectual Kurdish politician who questions the use of violence for political gain. She is familiar with Zana’s statements.

Şerafettin Elçi, another leading politician, but one who has positioned himself outside mainstream pro-Kurdish politics, has lent full support to Zana’s remarks. Zana’s words also imply that there is a deep-running fault line in the pro-Kurdish political scene. Indeed, some Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) members and, more importantly, PKK members challenged her words. BDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş accused Erdoğan of a lack of candor. Cemil Bayık, one of the PKK leaders controlling the organization’s armed wing, is trying to escalate the war.

Meanwhile, the government is preparing to make a move that would defuse the tension over the Kurdish issue. It has announced that the Kurdish language will be taught as an elective subject in schools. This is a well-timed move, and it is a very felicitous move intended to disperse the mist around the raison d’être of the Kurdish issue. Indeed, Zana praised the government’s efforts to put an end to assimilation policies such as the introduction of a state-owned TV channel broadcasting Kurdish-language programs. Unlike Demirtaş, she questioned the BDP’s rhetoric of writing off these moves as insincere.

But what is the outcome? According to these emerging signs, where does the Kurdish issue seem to be going from here? One should be careful to look at the big picture while talking or making judgments about a complicated issue like the Kurdish issue. This mellowing in pro-Kurdish politics is the outcome of developments in northern Iraq, and it is the US that directly defines these developments. Pro-Kurdish politicians recently visited the US, where they received messages about the US policy regarding Iraq. These messages were convincing as they suggested that the Kurdish presence in northern Iraq will be maintained, yet these messages also urged them to ensure that the PKK should lay down arms and arrive at a compromise with the Turkish state. This scheme does not have the slightest crack in which the PKK can hide.

It is known that the government is negotiating with the PKK via Massoud Barzani. A famous proverb reads “Once bitten, twice shy.” It is clear that these negotiations are being conducted with the utmost care after the collapse of the Oslo process. The main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) lending support to the solution by making a deal with the AK Party and the resulting enthusiasm should be seen as a sign of this improving atmosphere.

Returning to the question posed in the title: Is the Kurdish issue being solved? The answer: The climate that has cooled down since the Uludere massacre -- in which 34 civilians were mistaken for terrorists and killed by military air strikes in Şırnak’s Uludere district due to false intelligence -- is warming up again. The climate is becoming more amenable to a solution.