The Kurdish issue in Turkey has been so badly managed for decades that it envenomed all political life throughout the Republic. For the last two years, a genuine expectation emerged as regards the peaceful solution of this very old and much ossified problem. This did not depend on the opening made by the government and by the historic leader of the Kurdish PKK movement, Abdullah Öcalan, but has been the result of years of cautious but important steps. Numerous cultural rights have been granted, and for the first time, "respect" was shown toward Kurdish culture and civilization. Institutes have been established (although not numerous enough yet) in universities, and broadcasting and printing in the Kurdish language has been made totally free. In any democratic country, all these should have been carried out decades ago, but Turkey is still struggling to get rid of the political straitjacket inherited from the 1980 coup.
The worst Kurdish insurgency in the Republic's history has definitely been the PKK terror and uprising that started in 1983. It has cost the lives of more than 30,000 people, strongly undermining the development of a whole region in southeastern Turkey, and perhaps more important, sowing seeds of hatred and enmity between Kurds and Turks for years. Militarily speaking, the Turkish Armed Forces have given a very hard time to PKK fighters, without ever succeeding in overcoming the movement entirely. Northern Iraq, after the Gulf war, was a safe haven for PKK fighters, despite the existence of other regional movements, Barzani's peshmerga to begin with. A number of very large military operations have been waged by the Turkish Army in Northern Iraq, without dislocating the PKK fighters for good. On the other hand, the PKK has not been able to establish a stronghold within Turkey. Not that they did not try, but it proved to be impossible. The last time PKK staged a large operation was two years ago, when in the wake of the Arab revolution, they tried to invade the small town of Şırnak, an operation that failed miserably, where around 300 fighters were ambushed and destroyed by the army.
Since the PKK accepted a truce, mainly organized between the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and Öcalan, the population of the entire region, weary of decades of violence and state of exception, has espoused wholeheartedly this new modus vivendi. Supporters of the PKK have not turned tail and become law abiding Turkish citizens, but a real perspective of "how a Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin can feel oneself at ease with the regime" has emerged.
Obviously that was too much for the PKK armed forces, mostly active in Northern Iraq. They have taken the opportunity of the political and military maelstrom caused by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), to help the deceptive peshmergha forces of Barzani and the nonexistent Iraqi Army to win over ISIS and to present themselves as protectors of the Christian minorities. For the first time, the PKK armed wing has been sending a positive message to Western media, but that has fallen short of changing their detestable image. So came the provocation in Lice, a very small frontier town in Turkey by the Iraqi border, where a statue of a killed Kurdish fighter, Mahsum Korkmaz, was erected. He has been a symbol of the Kurdish insurgency, a little bit in the same vein as Horst Vessel's glorification by the Nazis after his death. The security forces dismantled the statue, and the following protest movements have caused the deaths of three people, including a Turkish soldier.
The PKK armed wing has issued a declaration underlining that Turkey and ISIL in fact were "allies" in their fight against the PKK. The provocation is very obvious and plainly gross; however, in the current situation it might have some impact. The Kurdish issue has been one of the most important successes of the government over the last decade. They will not let it be damaged, but this last provocation shows how difficult it has become for a democratic regime to remain isolated from the influence of the terrible tragedy in Syria and Iraq.