A new impetus for the reconciliation process is needed. The Kurdish politicians should take the lead in negotiating with the state for any progress
Is the peace and reconciliation process dead and gone? Has Turkey returned to the bad old days of the 1990s when Turkey's militant Kurds wreaked havoc in eastern and southeastern Turkey and the state acted helplessly?
First we have to answer the second question, that Turkey has not fallen into the mess it had suffered in the 1990s. Those of us who lived through the events of the 1990s know well that unfortunately what was experienced in those years was a mess created by the civilian politicians of Turkey who refused to shoulder the responsibility of solving the Kurdish question and putting an end to the PKK terrorism and instead opted for an easy solution, which was to ask the military to step in and try to cope with the issue.
The military in return was notorious for its human rights violations in the early 1990s, burning villages and forcing people to migrate to major cities where they set up Kurdish ghettos. The military also used its iron fist to try to tame Kurdish activists, which backfired. It used its allies in Parliament to lift the immunities of pro-Kurdish deputies and throw them out of Parliament sending some to jail and forcing others to live in exile in Europe. Kurdish activists with the help of European social democrat politicians set up makeshift Kurdish parliaments in exile in various places across Europe thus creating frictions between those countries and Turkey. The military in return was more interested in getting $8 million a year to fight the PKK rather than to actually fight the PKK. Thus there was no real fight and struggle but just the shedding of blood to the tune of 40,000 people.
The "Kurdish file" remained in the hands of the Turkish military until 2007, well into the era when the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was in office. However, with the failed coup attempt against the AK Party and the fact that the party won about 50 percent of the votes in the parliamentary elections effectively ended the secret military rule in Turkey and the AK Party at last got hold of the "Kurdish file" and since then has been trying to make headway to solve the Kurdish issue.
The Kurds of Turkey owe the AK Party so much and yet this has not been properly recognized in recent years. It was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (now the president) who started a process of reconciliation and peace with the Kurds. So much has been done behind the scenes for the Kurds, including legal representation in their mother tongue, selective Kurdish courses, Kurdish TV and many more.
Despite all this President Erdoğan feels he has been let down by the militant Kurds and the Kurdish politicians. It is true, the militants promised to lay down their arms and withdraw their forces into northern Iraq but this never happened. The Kurdish politicians in return pretended to cooperate with the AK Party but as soon as the opportunity arose they ganged up with the opposition parties to help weaken the AK Party and prevent it from winning a majority in Parliament.
The peace and reconciliation process will no doubt continue despite the current spate of terrorist attacks against soldiers and policemen. The PKK is starting to see that this is not the 1990s and those who are set to fight against them mean business. The PKK remains the counterpart in any process but they cannot be a direct party to talks. It has to be through intermediaries, which are the Kurdish politicians. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan should also be a party in the negotiations process now that he has seen who his friends are and who can stab him in the back. But while there is much sympathy for the PKK and Öcalan among the people in southeastern Turkey, there are also those who detest the PKK as well as Kurdish people with Islamic sensitivities. They too have to be a part of this process some way or another.