PKK’s European wing weighs in on peace process

March 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment

PKK’s European wing weighs in on peace process

A group of deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) was in Brussels, the Belgian capital, late last week where they met with affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to discuss the details of a peace initiative launched by the Turkish government to end a three-decade-long armed conflict through peaceful means.

The PKK, which has been waging an armed campaign against Turkey for the past 29 years, has abandoned its previous demands for independence, but continues to seek autonomy mainly in the predominantly Kurdish, conflict-ridden southeastern parts of Turkey. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by not only Turkey but also the European Union and the US.

However, with fresh peace efforts initiated in the past several months with the PKK and the state now viewing this outlawed organization’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, as an interlocutor, Kurdish demands for equal rights within the Turkish state may become a reality. As one of the actors in the peace process, the BDP deputies discussed their opinion on some ideas set forth by Öcalan, who the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) is in talks with, during their meeting with the PKK members in Europe.

The contents of Öcalan’s letter, which was discussed in Brussels, have not been made public yet. But the government expects the PKK to declare a cease-fire before March 21 — the Kurdish New Year – as well as lay down arms and begin withdrawing from Turkey in the summer. In return, both the PKK and Kurdish political actors expect Turkey to take democratization steps such as implementing a judicial reform package that will distinguish freedom of expression and freedom of the press from terrorist propaganda. Voicing or writing support for a terrorist organization will no longer be regarded as a crime within the scope of the Counterterrorism Law (TMK) unless such a person has been involved in or instigated violence. Once it becomes law, it is hoped the reform package will pave the way for the release of a number of the more than 2,000 defendants in the trial of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an urban grouping of the PKK.

As the BDP deputies were in Brussels, there was another gathering in the Swiss city of Basel, organized by the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK), which brings together Turkish leftist groups as well as Turkish Kurds and Alevis under one umbrella. Some participants who wished to remain anonymous shared with me information about the private conversations they had with some leading PKK names, including Mustafa Sarıkaya, who replaced Sabri Ok as the head of the European wing of the organization. Ok is said to have been based in the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq, the main base of the PKK’s armed wing.

The European wing of the PKK is said to have been supporting the government’s initiative in general to hold peace talks with Öcalan, who most Kurds see as their sole leader. The PKK’s European wing members, like those in Kandil as well as Turkish Kurds in general, carry, however, concerns that they might be deceived by the state under the guise of a peace move and that they might be deprived of their cultural and political rights. But they are at the same time relieved with the fact that Öcalan, whom they trust, is conducting the peace talks.

One of the critical issues, among many, is whether the PKK is homogenous and that it might split up over the peace move and that a splinter group may emerge supporting the armed struggle. According to Sarıkaya, however, this is not likely because the PKK has taken the necessary measures to avoid any such risk of a division within the group. A splinter group that may break away from the PKK is believed to be composed of those of Syrian origin and led by Fehman Hüseyin, code named Bahoz Erdal. Sarıkaya reportedly claims that the Syrian wing of the PKK has no weight within the organization.

The PKK’s European wing, in the meantime, does not trust Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, where the PKK’s armed wing is based. Barzani’s administration is expected to play a key role, among other things, in facilitating the possible withdrawal of PKK terrorists from Turkey into northern Iraq. In the final analysis, Turkey has no choice apart from searching for peace with Turkish Kurds for the sake of the nation’s stability and prosperity.


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