Friday, May 16, 2008

Türk Says DTP Is Ready to Turn Against the PKK

From Today's Zaman:
Democratic Society Party (DTP) leader Ahmet Türk has expressed the opinion that the armed struggle of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) hurts the Kurdish people.

The Web site of the Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, reported on Wednesday that Türk had said the PKK had blocked the first step for a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish problem. “If a step is taken [toward peace], we would then, if necessary, turn against the PKK,” Türk said, marking a strict shift from the pro-Kurdish DTP’s long-held stance that it would not condemn the PKK. “I am personally saying this openly. The armed struggle of the PKK is hurting the Kurds. It is giving the military the upper hand,” he said, in comments after a meeting with the Iraqi president. Türk said as long as the Turkish government was ready to take steps toward recognizing the Kurdish identity and the Kurdish language, his party would fight to put an end to the armed clashes between the PKK and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

“If the state persists in solving this problem with military measures, we cannot do anything. If they bring a political solution and project and if the PKK does not stop fighting, then we too would turn against the PKK.” He claimed that just like the DTP, the PKK also expected the state to devise a project that would end the Kurdish problem.
While Türk's recent statements are laudable and likely to be well-received in Turkey and Europe, it is unlikely that they carry much weight within the DTP. The party's relationship with the PKK—in particular with imprisoned Abdullah Öcalan, who it communicates with through Öcalan's attorneys—is very complicated, and although claims that the party is the political wing of the PKK are quite unjustified, it will be difficult for DTP to disavow support of the organization.

Despite its terrorist tactics, the PKK still enjoys wide popular support among many politicized Kurds, most of whom seek greater cultural rights, including the right to publish and broadcast in their own language, educate their children in that language, and freely hold assemblies and public meetings without worry of state intervention (see Feb. 4 post). While AKP gained 53 percent of the Kurdish vote in July, a serious blow to DTP, the party is still very popular with Kurds who are not happy with AKP's reluctance to grant greater cultural rights, and indeed, suspicious of AKP (see March 10 post). This discontent has been growing as AKP has shown itself to be less sympathetic to the cause of securing Kurdish cultural rights in the past few months, and in some instances, has directly or indirectly supported state repression. Newroz scenes from Van and Hakkari are not easily forgotten, and neither are the many cases currently pending against DTP politicians and Kurdish activists.

By all intents and purposes, there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Türk's declaration, and no matter the level of DTP support, if AKP began to grant the cultural rights it has long promised the Kurds, it would significantly weaken the position of the hardliners who are growing stronger everyday. However, this seems less and less likely since AKP is now embroiled in its own closure case and its promised revision of the constitution—much anticipated by Kurds—now hopelessly stalled.

I am due to arrive in Diyarbakır on May 26 and am much looking forward to discussing the future of Kurdish politics with people I meet so that I might get a better picture of how Kurds feel about the complicated array of political actors all claiming to represent their interests.

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