The puzzle called the Kurdish peace process becomes more perplexing as the days go by. The complexity of the issue has much to do with the region’s rapid developments, but the real unknown variable is President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself.
The question that haunts us all is this: Can a leader, wrapped in allegations of corruption, having lost the confidence of all but his own electorate and increasingly lacking any respect for the rule of law, deliver peace that can last and be convincing?
Meanwhile, violence that erupted yesterday in Lice is telling enough how alert and decisive the Kurdish population remains about their demands. When a local court decided to demolish a statue erected in memory of Mahsum Korkmaz, a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebel murdered in the 1980s, large-scale clashes broke out, causing the closure of the highway linking Diyarbakır to Bingöl and roadblocks. Army troops used real bullets, and according to pictures we saw in social media, a person was killed and several others were hospitalized.
Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, also maintains the pressure. He once more met with a delegation from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and this time the meeting lasted longer than any other before. In an interview, Sırrı Süreyya Önder, one of the HDP members, said Öcalan hoped the process from now on would be “documented,” “transparent” and rapid, with a new deadline set at the end of September.
Önder’s blurred rhetoric does not reveal much. It seems Öcalan and his counterparts are still busy “structuring” the talks.
This, certainly, serves Erdoğan, who would wish to win as much time as possible until the general elections next year.
According to a report in the Cumhuriyet daily, he explained in a closed Justice and Development Party (AKP) meeting very recently that the increase in the votes of HDP candidate Selahattin Demirtaş is a result of “PKK threats,” adding that “we can use the language against those who suppress the will of the people by weapons, which they can understand, if necessary by the potentials of the armed forces and the Ministry of Interior. We did not start the solution process so that they can benefit from it.”
Is there anything tangible about the “process” now? According to a report by a Kurdish colleague, Çetiner Çetin, some details of “homecoming” and “disarmament” are already in the shaping. He referred to a new report yesterday, titled “Turkish Model for Solution Process,” a 290-page text, which talks about several stages of the return of PKK members to Turkey.
If accurate, the report — planned to be finalized in early September — offers PKK members a chance to return in several stages, which will begin with some 20 families from the Mahmur camp. But the rest is delayed until the spring of 2015, when some 4,000 rebels are expected to descend from the Kandil Mountains and some 800 PKK members to return to Turkey from Europe.
But these are trivialities, devoid of much meaning. Öcalan has tied all his hopes to Erdoğan for an amnesty, and Erdoğan, the crafty tactician, will be using the entire time till the elections to prepare the ground for a constitutional change that will legitimize a presidential system.
After burning most of the bridges with the reformist blocks, all he is left with are the Kurds, whom he will hope to persuade for their support. A general amnesty, therefore, remains as the biggest carrot for reaching his goal.
But the problem is that the man who leads the process, which in nearly two years produced no other result than a cease-fire, is a leader keen to evade legal probes, by any means necessary.
Kurds are divided; many elderly activists question his sincerity as much as the morality aspects.
Others do as well. Taner Akçam, a scholar on the Armenian genocide issue and a former front figure of the left, said: “The Kurdish issue is an issue of equal citizenship. The main problem is that the government has limited all the issues, such as education in one’s mother tongue and self-administration, to its talks with the PKK. This is a great mistake and will produce nothing. The freedom for the Kurds cannot be tied to talks with the PKK. If freedom is the goal, the government can pass all the necessary laws within 24 hours. Nobody is stopping them.’