Ankara is determined for peace despite everything

Published 06.11.2014 02:15

The reconciliation process, initiated to end the clashes between the Turkish state and the PKK, which have lasted for 30 years and claimed the lives of 50,000 people so far, is now in its second year. Of course, where the process presently stands has not been easily reached. The process, which was first announced by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in December 2012, has witnessed serious provocations within the last two years. PKK militants occasionally resorted to terrorist activities and the agitated discourse of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), caused a stir and led to some uprisings. Recently, PKK supporters, who demonstrated in the streets upon the HDP's call for more support for the crisis in Kobani, killed 40 people.

Doubtlessly, this atmosphere constrains the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which has received roughly 50 percent of the vote over the last 12 years. The majority of the Turkish public has quite strong nationalist tendencies. Consequently, the provocative demonstrations have caused some criticism that the reconciliation process kicked off by the government supported the separatist PKK. Similar criticism is made even by supporters of the government. However, Erdoğan's influential leadership skills assure the party's base given that he was elected president after he started the reconciliation process.

Erdoğan and the AK Party government are not only busy with the reconciliation process. They also have to deal with other barriers. The government both sustains the reconciliation process and struggles against the activities of anti-peace groups in bureaucracy such as the judicial coup attempt by the Gülen Movement. Also, nearly all of Turkey's neighbors are currently at war in conflicts. Unfortunately, the AK Party government is all alone in this social peace project, which actually involves the peace in both Turkey and the region.

PKK exploits the peace process

PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has been imprisoned in Turkey's İmralı Island prison since 1999. In this period, Öcalan managed to come out victorious from the power struggles in the organization and kept supporting the reconciliation process. Öcalan also partially disposed the HDP and PKK commanders' attempts of sabotaging the peace process. Öcalan mostly benefited from his prestige among the Kurdish public on the matter. The armed wing of the organization cannot exclude Öcalan from the process even though they wish to do so.

The most significant reason for the provocations that endanger the process is this de-facto power struggle within the organization. The PKK commanders, who think they would lose the power and privilege the arms have granted to them with the reconciliation process, act most of the time despite Öcalan's messages. They are currently in an effort to hinder the reconciliation process by manipulating the ongoing clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) and the PKK's Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party's (PYD) armed People's Protection Units (YPG) in Kobani. They base their arguments on the allegations that Ankara is not providing sufficient aid for them in the face of ISIS.

However, Turkey recognized ISIS as a terrorist organization and also became the country that shot at ISIS militants for the first time. Some 949 members of the YPG who were injured in the battles have been treated in Turkey. Also, 200,000 Kurdish refugees from Kobani have taken asylum in Turkey. Moreover, the government allowed 150 peshmerga from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to pass through Turkey on their way to Kobani to aid in the fight last week. It is not a secret that the Free Syrian Army, which is also fighting ISIS in Kobani, acts in coordination with Ankara. As the picture suggests, the PKK's criticism of the government does not have any tangible ground.

The U.S. and Europe are manipulated by PKK propaganda

This latest manipulation of the PKK, which goes against both negotiation ethics and peace efforts, aims at the PKK's removal from the terrorist lists of the U.S. and EU. By concealing the fact that Turkey is fighting against ISIS, the PKK tries to hint that it is the only secular power fighting against radical Islam in the Middle East. However, Ankara has already granted them the opportunity of being removed from the terrorist list with the ongoing reconciliation process. The only thing the PKK had to do was turn away from terrorist activities and laying down their arms. But they chose to preserve the power their weapons granted them by obtaining international legitimacy.

Unfortunately, the U.S. and EU give credence to the arguments of the PKK in this manipulation. However, they should keep in mind that not only Turkey, but also the anti-terrorism concept, which is a common value of humanity, will pay the cost of the attitude they display toward Ankara's peace efforts.

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