Government vows to renew Kurdish initiative, but may face a Kurdish spring

The government claims that they will retake the initiative to solve the Kurdish issue amid tensions surrounding Newruz celebrations, prompting some to question whether Turkey will have a "Kurdish opening" or "Kurdish spring."

By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Turkiye -- 20/03/12

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The coming of spring usually portends the heating up of the Kurdish problem, as the snow's retreat from the mountains of southeast Anatolia typically brings renewed fighting between the PKK and Turkish security forces.

  • The BDP is mobilising its supporters to pressure the government. [Reuters]

    The BDP is mobilising its supporters to pressure the government. [Reuters]

  • Demonstrators celebrating Newruz, holding a portrait of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, walk past a burning mobile telephone relay station in Diyarbakir on March 18th. [Reuters]

    Demonstrators celebrating Newruz, holding a portrait of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, walk past a burning mobile telephone relay station in Diyarbakir on March 18th. [Reuters]

  • PKK attacks this summer would likely harden the government's response, putting the military option to the forefront at the expense of a political solution. [Reuters]

    PKK attacks this summer would likely harden the government's response, putting the military option to the forefront at the expense of a political solution. [Reuters]

While events surrounding this year's Newruz celebrations reveal once again the discontent -- and organisational capacity -- of Turkey's ethnic Kurdish minority, the government claims it has plans to renew its drive to end the three-decade-old conflict.

Before heading to the largely Kurdish populated province of Mardin on March7th, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a meeting of his AK Party provincial chairmen, "Whatever the price, we will resolve this issue with the support of the people. We will continue to struggle for that until our last breath."

The prime minister's visit to Mardin followed a day after his wife, Emine Erdogan, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay, met with the families of 34 civilians who were killed in a botched air raid in the southeastern Uludere district late last year. The incident drove a deep wedge between the government and the Kurdish minority.

In his speech to Mardin residents, Erdogan called on them to trust the sincerity of the government. "The souls that were lost in Uludere are our souls. We will follow this issue in military and civilian courts until the end. We will not allow this problem to be exploited politically," he said.

However, it's not clear yet how the AK Party plans to give new breath -- beyond rhetoric -- to the failed 2009 Kurdish opening.

Atalay, who has taken the lead on tackling the Kurdish issue within the government, announced last week that the government is going to "take new steps on it" in four main areas.

"The security-focused struggle against terrorism will continue without losing pace. Second, we will increase efforts to draw nearer to the people in the region. We'll go to the most remote corners and reach out to the people. Third, there will be more efficient work concerning northern Iraq. And the fourth step is the continuing steps of democratisation," he said.

Mehmet Metiner, a Kurdish intellectual and AK Party MP, says the government has been planning a new democratisation package for some time, but it was delayed due to the Uludere incident.

"We have never forgotten our Kurdish citizens," he told SES Türkiye, reminding that the AK Party broke the state's traditional policy of seeing the Kurdish issue as only a terrorism problem by recognising the social, economic, and cultural dimensions to the problem.

"For the first time ever, under our party's governance, state institutions are working in sync to solve the problems," he added.

However, Nader Entessar, who authored the book "Kurdish Politics in the Middle East" and currently chairs the Political Science and Criminal Justice Department at the University of South Alabama, told SES Turkiye that despite promises for democratisation, it is not clear what these moves will entail, or how it will address specific Kurdish demands.

"Political circumstances today are less conducive for the Turkish government to take any drastic measures in this regard," she concludes.

Ibrahim Binici, a pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) MP from Sanliurfa, told SES Türkiye the government needs to sit down and solve things through talks with Kurdish politicians, rather than "brainwashing the people".

"Dialogue is the only way to solve this problem, and as far as we see it, neither the AK Party, nor others, have the intention to do that," he said.

For his part, Erdogan accuses the opposition parties of hampering efforts to resolve the Kurdish question, saying that the attempt for peace have been undermined by "dark circles" at home and abroad who collude with the PKK to advance their interests. Yet many analysts say the government needs to be clearer on its initiatives to resolve the Kurdish problem.

Gunes Murat Tezcur, an associate professor of political science at Loyola University in Chicago who specialises in Kurdish nationalism, explains that the resolution of the Kurdish question has two dimensions.

The first is the expansion of the human, cultural and political rights of Kurdish people. The second is the pacification and incorporation of the insurgency into the Turkish political system.

"The government is likely to make some limited concessions regarding the Kurdish language education. It may offer Kurdish as an elective course in public schools," he told SES Türkiye, adding that this would be far from satisfactory for Kurdish activists, who demand a clause in the new constitution that would guarantee Kurdish language education.

With the government unlikely to grant autonomy, the problem is not just the existence of spoilers -- hardliners committed to violence in the PKK -- but that even the most moderate BDP representatives are asking for at least some form of autonomy, he says.

Tezcur also reminds that the number of activists who are in prison on vague terrorism charges in the on-going Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case has significantly increased in the last three years. This deterioration in the human rights situation is directly related to the government's attempts to hamper the Kurdish nationalist movement's mass mobilisation capacity and reduce the political influence of the insurgency, he argues.

"The Kurdish nationalists demonstrated their mass appeal in the 2009 local elections, 2010 referendum, and 2011 parliamentary elections. The government wants to weaken both the political party and insurgency while making some limited concessions in the field of cultural rights."

Cigdem Nas, an associate professor of international relations at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, says it seems that the government intends to take some measures regarding the cultural rights of Kurdish citizens.

"The main idea behind the government’s approach to the Kurdish question is to differentiate between acceptable demands within the system from secessionist demands and endeavours. Hence, the clampdown on the KCK is an endeavour to marginalise the PKK and its sympathisers," she told SES Türkiye.

For Nas, the ultimate aim is a negotiated settlement to the Kurdish issue. The government is making tactical moves, trying to bolster its own position against the BDP and PKK by expanding cultural rights.

However, PKK attacks can be expected over the summer. "Such events put pressure on governments to give in to demands for a more stringent policy on the issue," she said.

Since fall 2011, security forces have been aggressive against the PKK, inflicting significant losses on the PKK's guerrilla cadre. But as Tezcur points out, the government does not have the military capacity to effectively end the insurgency, putting the PKK and the military in a "stalemate".

"My hunch is that the stalemate would continue with seasonal variation in armed conflict. I expect to see an increase in fights next month with the advent of spring," Tezcur concluded


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  • Anonymous about 3 years

    Why Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not let Kurds to celebrate Nawruz this year? I’m waiting for your answer.

  • Anonymous about 3 years

    Nawruz celebrations have been done every year but Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not let this year, I wonder why? He is right too. May be due to our 21 martyr soldiers. Kurds didn’t wait as well. May be it was for more people to come, why they did not find a solution? If Kılıçlar was dead, they would have done it definitely. I’m a Kurd too but solve this problem. Otherwise our Kurds will always stay as ignorant, poor people and wll destroy all around and all around will not be different from hell.

  • Anonymous about 3 years

    You’d better learn how to write properly before calling Kurds ignorant.

  • Anonymous about 3 years

    The administration of this website is making Kurdish propaganda. Happy is a man who says he is Turkish.

  • Anonymous about 3 years

    Administrators of this website, whose purposes are you serving? Do you have Israeli friends or are you Jewish yourselves? You are talking about democracy, but I don’t think you are brave enough to publish this comment of mine.

  • Anonymous about 3 years

    So you check the comments you don’t like.

  • Anonymous about 3 years

    Just to spite all fascists and racist, how happy is he who says I’m a Kurd.

  • Anonymous about 3 years

    The point I don’t understand is that how they put these bilateral unnecessary and libellous comments into here. I hate the nationalists of both sides. I’m Turk but I like Kurds as much as Turks. The ones who equate them all because of 5-10 thousand marauders are the people who are not different from them.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    How happy is he who says I’m a Kurd. How happy is he who says I’m Turk. Why all these do hurt both sides? Neither Turks nor Kurds, you will not be able to divide this country.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    They do wrong to the Kurds with the excuse of that the language is being restricted. Even Kurdish radio and television has been practised, they can use their mother language. Then why the ones who came from Central Asia or Black Sea cannot use their mother languages? Why they’ve made us forget? Where is the Ottoman language? If our ancestors are Ottoman, then they should have a language. Injustice had been made to Turks. But the Kurds are being manipulated to create trouble. There are people expoliting their ignorance, they should be smart. I’m almost 55 and don’t know where Van, Ağrı is but the Kurds are everywhere in Turkey. The villager comes from the village and orient himslef to the city in a short time. Kurds should apply this exactly, accomodate themselves into the environment a little bit. They should look at what Libya, Iraq, Syria become now. Do they really want all these happen? Do they try to destroy themselves by the words of some people?

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Happy is a man who says he is Kurdish.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    I know very well that this government has spoiled them much.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    I know very well that this governemnt has spoiled them much. Since this government came to the power, our soliders are dying almost everyday and nobody says anything about this. What I’m saying is: “Long live Republic – How happy is the one who says I’m Turk.” (Translator’s note: Commentator here had made either a spelling mistake or wrote an ironic “Mürk” deliberately. I’ve used the first option.)

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    I have lived as a Kurdish person to the last of drop of my blood and will continue living like that. Long live Kurdistan! Damn Turkey! You are talking about brotherhood, but if this is what you understand from brotherhood, I don’t want it. I doubt if the Turkish state would ever understand this.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    What happened, site administrator? Are you afraid of publishing [my comment]? If being Kurdish is not allowed, I am one of them. Kurdish people are not scared of anything.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    We are the descendants of Adam, who was made out of earth. Our colors and races may be different, but the real supremacy comes from duly worshiping god. Rights and freedoms of people are the most natural right. However, one should abstain from doing wrong when demanding those rights.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    First of all, let us not forget that Turkey is a country where everybody can easily express themselves. It is not that country, which once belonged to gangsters, anymore. Even the word “Kurdish” was banned in the past, but today we can say “Kurdistan”. We should thank the people who are governing us.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Turks who do not endure Kurds will finally go to The Great Wall of China and will continue to howl there. Then our Chinese brothers will beat them by saying them that “You’ve not liked Kurds, you could not get on with teh children of civilization, you deserve beating.”. Like “all rivers fall into the sea”, Turks will soon go back to the place where they came. They should think well, should stop being barbarians, should not force their chance further on these land where the civilization is dominant for thousands of years. If Kurds were not exist, Persians had still been chasing them until Great Wall each time they came.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Commentator fellows, please let’s not use words that would create hostility and dislike between these two people interconnected, became brothers and relatives. Let’s not forget that many of us, Kurds live on teh western part of Turkey. Let’s not forget that we’ll all die in one day and account to Allah. Solutions can be reach by mutual consent. Enough! No solution can be reached by showing racism, fascism.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    How happy is the one who says I’m Kurd.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Dear President Kemal Kilicdaroglu, if you could make a motion for the ones who already fulfilled their age requirements but waiting for their days to be completed in Social Security Institution for their retirement, can they get the chance for retirement by retroactive borrowing? Regards,

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    The Kurds tried autonomy in İran and they failed miserably. They will fail in Turkey too. İf you want autonomy they why the dont you all go to northern İraq. Afteral the “Kurdish jerusalem” (Kirkuk) is in İraq.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    This country had not been gained easily, you can’t dare to divide it or to dismiss Turks from Anatolia. I’m asking to the ones who dare to fire from this lands or the traitors who try to divide this country: Whose servants are you, so that dare to divide Turkish Republic or annihilate it? Turkey belongs to Turks, Turkey belongs to Turks. The people living on these lands is the Turkish nation. The ones who don’t like it either do push off or we hit them like a ton of bricks. That’s all.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    You have brought up a very good details , regards for the post.

Name: Anonymous - Have your comments posted immediately!

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