A few days ago, the PKK declared that it had ended the cease-fire it announced two years ago. In the announcement, it said that the Turkish government had not acted according to the requirements of the cease-fire, that it had constructed roads, dams, and police facilities with military purposes and thus was committing cultural genocide and that there would be retaliation in response. However, just this past March, imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan sent out a message talking about "ending the 40-year long armed conflict of the PKK against the Turkish Republic" and "adapting to the spirit of the times," which was read in front of the people by Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder in Diyarbakır. How did the PKK, which was expected to disarm in the spring of 2015, get to this point? Undoubtedly the answer to this question cannot be sought in just one reason. The reasons for the PKK ending the cease-fire and declaring war on the Turkish government despite lacking the necessary conditions includes the fundamental dynamics of Turkish politics and regional developments.
Above everything else, Turkey's reconciliation process with the armed PKK terrorist group and the widening of the activity space of the PKK's arm in northern Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), have significantly altered the balance of power. While Öcalan, the undisputed leader of the organization, continues to exert his symbolic influence throughout this process, his actual influence is waning. Öcalan's constructive attitude toward the reconciliation process began to disturb the hawkish side of the organization. However, Öcalan's authority in the eyes of the PKK prevented him from facing direct criticism. While the PKK leaders who felt threatened by what was being spoken of in northern Iraq's Qandil Mountains and the reconciliation process did not oppose Öcalan's calls outright, they were reluctant in doing what was required for the process to move forward. PKK leaders thought that they would be eliminated if the reconciliation process was successful, and this brought along the result of the disintegration of the organization's leadership. For this reason, Öcalan's calls for disarmament and for members to pull back from the borders fell on deaf ears.
The developments in southern Turkey have also played an important role in the PKK calling for an end to the cease-fire. In the past year, the PYD used the regime crisis in Syria and the vacuum created by it to its advantage and established its autonomous sovereignty in Kobani, Jazira, and Afrin. While this first caused the political representative of the PKK, which is the HDP, to change its priorities and discourse, the transformation of the PYD's armed People's Protection Units (YPG) into a land force supported by the U.S. against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) formed the actual breaking point. The PKK considered this to be a historical opportunity and remembered once again the separatist discourse it had forgotten during the reconciliation process. It began using very harsh discourse against the government and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) administration. This found a mutual response in Turkish political life. The HDP began a very serious campaign against the AK Party administration and the founding president of the AK Party, current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş reduced his political struggle to one based on opposition to Erdoğan to such a degree that the anti-Erdoğan performance the HDP and Demirtaş displayed garnered votes from communities that hate Erdoğan.
The Turkish state's changing attitude
The Turkish state was active in a militaristic culture up until the 2000s. Interventions were made in civilian politics with military coups. Violence and arms were basically transformed into tools of politics. The state securitized social, cultural and political issues, the Kurdish issue foremost among them. This process brought out a type of politician who was more protective and who considered military balance rather than a politician who defended, come what may, civilian and democratic politics. On the other hand, politicians and political parties that depended more on non-political bureaucratic powers rather than the people appeared.
The answer to the question of what changed in the Turkish state after 2000 is the change of this militarist and securitizing perspective. The Kurdish problem was considered from a different standpoint. The AK party government was considering the issue through a three-dimensional approach. The government focused on the economic backwardness in the eastern and southeastern provinces where Kurds are the majority, and took steps forward in this area. Secondly, the state's separatist policies were removed and Kurds and the Kurdish problem were acknowledged. In this framework, many social and cultural rights were delivered to the Kurds. Thirdly, the government saw armed terror as an important part of the Kurdish problem and took steps in this area as well. At the point we have arrived, there are two options facing Kurdish politics. Either they will act according to the security apprehension of Kurdish militarists and end the already-in-crisis reconciliation process, or they will follow a democratic political line and exert themselves for the continuation of the reconciliation process.