The historic reconciliation process commenced on Jan. 3, 2013, when a delegation from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) paid a visit to İmralı Island prison where PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is imprisoned. Moves to end the 35-year-old armed conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state were not a new phenomenon. In the declaration the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) issued after the 2002 general elections, it was already stated that this issue would be resolved through peaceful means rather than military action. During the early 1990s, the attempts of former President Turgut Özal and former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan did not yield any results and the country drifted toward even more violent clashes.
In 2005, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered a historic speech in Diyarbakır province, in which he apologized to Kurds in the name of the state, saying: "The Kurdish issue is my issue above all." The PKK answered this initiative by founding the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and forming a new organizational order.
Erdoğan paid another visit to Diyarbakır in 2009, during which he said:
"Every county has made mistakes throughout its history. Every country has faced hard times in its past. In a great and strong country like Turkey, we have achieved [what we have in the] current days by passing through the whirlwind of many hardships. Therefore, for great countries, ignoring past mistakes is not appropriate. A great country and a strong nation is one that has the confidence to face itself and take steps towards the future by discussing the details of its mistakes and misdeeds. Our government endeavors to serve the country with this perspective. I am in the presence of you as the prime minister of a team that believes in the self-confidence and history and regional knowledge of our state and nation."
However, the process has reached its current condition by passing through some trials and changing names. The motto of the process was "silence the arms, and give voice to politics." This motto required the pro-Kurdish party, which was then renamed the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), to give up violence and ethnic-oriented Kurdish nationalism, and use the positive atmosphere in Turkey to normalize conditions. This was our expectation from the HDP. In Ireland Sinn Fein achieved a central position while the Irish Republican Army was gradually fading from the scene. The healthy progress of the process could be observed with this change in actors.
But things did not turn out the same in Turkey. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government took all the political risks of the process, and used Erdoğan's popularity among the party's base supporters to guarantee the process. During the 35 years of armed conflict, 40,000 people were killed, so there is a high level of hatred for the PKK among Turks. Before Erdoğan's courageous step, people could not even imagine negotiating with the PKK or the HDP delegation's visit to Öcalan. However, the public has such respect and trust for Erdoğan that it supported the process, putting all their trust in Erdoğan's actions.
Interestingly, the HDP and its co-chairs created a tense atmosphere during the process. They kept their distance from Öcalan's vision, but since they could not overtly object to him, they showed it covertly, by acting reluctantly toward the reconciliation steps and by not missing any opportunity to instigate controversy. But the worst was experienced on Oct. 6-8, 2014. Upon the HDP's call, people poured out into the streets to demand the government provide more support for those fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Kobani, Syria. As a result, 52 Kurdish citizens were brutally killed.
The PKK also did not keep its promise to depart from Turkish territory on May 8, 2013. While the government has taken about 20 progressive steps regarding the process, the PKK has not kept any of its promises, and has violated its cease-fire promise many times, including the violent incident that led to 52 casualties.
And last week, the PKK clashed with the army in Ağrı province's Diyadin district, injuring four soldiers and five PKK members were killed. General elections will be held in less than two months and there is no excuse to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere. Both the PKK and HDP are creating trouble for their own benefit, while also playing the role of peace apostles. Kurds and Turks demand peace. But if the PKK and the HDP insist on such behavior, the Kurds could directly discharge both organizations.