Have negotiations begun? by MÜMTAZER TÜRKÖNE

September 25, 2010, Saturday/ 16:29:00
The meeting held on Thursday between government officials and representatives of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) represents an important step in the solution of the terror issue.

The positive and heartwarming statements made by both sides indicate that the talks are making headway. The most important expectation of the government side is that terror activities will cease as a result of these talks. The BDP side, similarly, is expecting that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) abandons violence after receiving some concessions from the government. This suggests that through these negotiations, the Kurdish issue will be freed from violence. With the termination of bloodshed, we will be able to discuss the issue in a healthy environment.

This meeting means that the process of negotiations, which has been perpetually demanded for by the PKK, has started. These deliberations will continue for a long time if they are not interrupted. There are numerous obstacles that must be overcome along this long road. Before anything can be done, violence must be stopped and a lasting peace must be established. Even this modest beginning indicates that many problems have already been overcome, including the problem of who should be accepted as an “addressee” in negotiations.

How was the addressee problem solved?

For about two years, the PKK has been focusing on the “addressee problem” in the solution of the Kurdish issue. For them, who would be at the table was more important than what issues would be discussed. The PKK wanted to acquire legitimacy and become the lead actor in the negotiations by ensuring that it was formally accepted as an addressee. This would force the organization to evolve internally. This was the aim of and purpose behind the terror, which the PKK would occasionally increase. The government has not yet compromised on who it would accept as an addressee, rejecting even Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk, who are known as the most reasonable figures in Kurdish politics, as the representatives of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK).

The BDP is a legitimate political party. It has a group in Parliament. Its existence and activities are considered to be legitimate as long as it is not closed down by the Constitutional Court. The government’s stubbornness on the addressee problem has effectively forced Kurdish politics to operate within legal limits. Bargaining conducted under the shadow of weapons will certainly do no one good. The end of terrorism will render ineffective those who make violence their lifestyle. It will also provide greater opportunities for civilian politics. Thus, the relationship between the BDP and the PKK will be reversed. For this reason, not accepting the PKK as an addressee was a necessary precondition if terror is to be permanently eradicated. The preliminary signs from the negotiations underway mean that this precondition has been successfully fulfilled.

Therefore, any objection that “we are giving the demands of the terrorist organization,” is meaningless. In contrast, it is actually the terrorist organization that is losing its position. The government’s insistence is ensuring that Kurdish politics remain in the legal realm. Dialogue must begin and it must continue. The explosion in Hakkari and the continuation of negotiations means that this dialogue will progress despite obstacles. Everyone knew that there would be such attacks to undermine the dialogue process and no one was distracted by this ploy. As Cengiz Çandar stressed, the dialogue must be maintained, taking no heed of exploding mines.

Will negotiations stop terror?

The world has a wealth of experience in terror incidents stemming from ethnic problems. As seen elsewhere in the world, terrorist organizations are not willing to abandon their violent methods. Even when the problem starts to be solved, some groups emerge within the terrorist organization and resist the solution since they have made violence their way of life. This can be seen in the cases of Al-Fatah, the IRA and the ETA. Their common feature is that after the organization attains its purpose, it acquires an autonomous structure and resorts to violence in order to perpetuate its existence. This puts us in a pessimistic position: Even if the dialogue is successful and the terrorist organization is purged, the terrorist attacks are very likely to continue. However, this time the ongoing terrorist attacks are faced with massive outcries. The groups that the terrorist organization claims to represent have withdrawn their support for the organization. Thus, although terror escalates in the short term, it expires over the medium term like a flash in the pan.

We now possess a climate conducive to solving the terror problem. The balances in the international arena do not leave much space for the PKK to maneuver. Will Kurdish public opinion lend support to Murat Karayılan’s call on Israel? A Kurdish terrorist organization that seeks support from Israel cannot get the support of conservative Kurds.

Will the PKK say farewell to arms?

When the ceasefire that had been declared on Aug. 15 was about to expire on Sept. 20 the PKK announced a one-week extension to it. Nonetheless, the police and intelligence officials warn people about possible PKK attacks in big cities and against civilians. So we might suggest that if negotiations do not start, the PKK will launch devastating terrorist attacks. Will terror really start over? Will it target metropolitan cities and civilian targets?

Provocative terrorist attacks are launched to undermine the negotiations process that started. Killing nine PKK militants in Hakkari one day before the Eid al-Fitr and four days before the referendum was the most influential event in determining the rate of success for the BDP’s boycott in the Southeast. These nine PKK militants died in order to influence the referendum results irrespective of who killed them. Someone killed them in order to boost participation in the boycott and increase “no” votes or to directly repress those who are against the boycott. For those who intended to go to the polls, the corpses of nine PKK militants and the ongoing visits of condolence were of course very effective to dissuade them. Alternatively, Ergenekon and the PKK may have carried out this attack collaboratively. The places where participation in the boycott was high were also the places where the terror risk was high. Thus, the BDP’s boycott call was welcomed only by those Kurds who live closely with terror.

The mine explosion that claimed the lives of nine people in Hakkari after the referendum was designed to block the negotiations process. The PKK cannot persuade anyone, including its own members, that the mine explosion was masterminded by the military. This is because there is no longer an operation unit within the state that can conduct such a grand provocation. While the Ergenekon case is underway and even top ranking generals are called to account for their actions, no uniformed person can issue an order to conduct such a massacre, or supposing that he issued it, he would find no one to carry it out.

What Abdullah Öcalan said via his lawyers from İmralı underscores two important points. First, the attack in Hakkari is a provocation and it was conducted by some groups within the PKK. Second, the negotiations have started and are underway. Öcalan particularly points out that the talks are being maintained in a productive manner.

The PKK wrongly assumes that it has garnered public support with the referendum boycott. The only power that can stop the coming wave of terror is the public that supports the PKK. If Kurds can make it clear that they do not want violence, then the PKK will have to lay down its arms. The PKK has a serious problem. It cannot rely on the masses that lend support to it. The provinces where the boycott was effective have two basic characteristics. First, they represent only very small part of the geography where Kurds dominantly live; these places such as Hakkari and Şırnak lack political maturity. Second, they are particularly characterized by an intense risk of terror in daily life. They are located in the mountainous regions that are suitable for terror attacks.

Thus, the PKK’s call for boycotting the schools in the Southeast was not successful, which clearly shows the PKK’s dilemma. Boycott is a peaceful method. The PKK’s acts without weapons as a means of intimidation cannot be successful. This means that the PKK’s power over Kurds is coercion-based.

The negotiations process has ultimately started. The preliminary signs indicate that the first and the most difficult steps have been taken.