Since the 1990s, multiple efforts by the Turkish government to find a political solution to the Kurdish question have hit a brick wall. Each time, violence and bloodshed came back to haunt the country.
In previous decades, Turkish authorities followed a static and oppressive policy for the Kurdish community, which made it possible for the PKK, an armed organization equally repressive of rival Kurdish groups, to mobilize its supporters by appealing to widespread injustice.
The PKK's monopoly of the Kurdish question, likewise, was a direct result of official policy, which was under heavy influence of global players. From the early 1980s onward, the organization sidelined peaceful Kurdish activists to become a self-proclaimed and unchallenged advocate of the Kurdish people. Although both government policy and the PKK's priorities changed over the years, the trigger-happy militants remained committed to its people's revolutionary war.
In the aftermath of the June 7 parliamentary elections, the radicals sabotaged a two-and-a-half-year cease-fire to return to violence. To be clear, no politician in their right mind would promote violence after having doubled their share of the vote thanks to peace. This is no ordinary political movement, however, but a terrorist group seeking autonomy through violence.
It would not be fair to blame the terror attacks on the PKK's military commanders in the Qandil Mountains in Northern Iraq, either. Both the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and imprisoned PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan actively contributed to the bloodshed. Obviously, it is ironic that the armed militants would kill residents in towns governed by the HDP regional affiliate Democratic Regions Party (DBP) politicians.
In order to find a way out of this vicious cycle, the Kurdish political arena must become more diverse. The presence of multiple political parties claiming to represent the Kurdish community, however, will not fix the problem because the PKK, which has been pointing its guns at Kurds more than anyone else, prevents them from developing alternative policies.
In response to the PKK's return to violence and the HDP's unwillingness to challenge armed militants, the Kurdish middle class and peaceful activists are now calling for the formation of a new political party. Calling for renewed dialogue, many Kurds believe that a genuinely democratic movement that categorically rejects violence and calls for closer cooperation between ethnic Turks and Kurds could revolutionize politics.
Adil Gür, one of Turkey's most prominent pollsters, agrees: "The HDP leadership has been hurting since [the execution of two police officers in] Ceylanpınar. Having won 13 percent of the vote in June, they were on their way to become a national movement. But they simply couldn't distance themselves from the PKK, whose violent campaign has repercussions beyond politics: A large number of people had to leave their homes. Local businesses are suffering from violence and many children can't go to school. If the HDP fails to bounce back, other Kurdish political parties might seek to fill the vacuum."
If a peaceful political movement backed by the Kurdish middle class and activists were to push for Kurdish-language education and the adoption of the European Charter of Local Self-Government – demands many people find reasonable – and reached out to the entire nation, major changes might take place. Even HDP leaders, who now feel PKK commanders and radical leftists breathing down their neck, might benefit from some competition.