Bosporus Blog: PKK-Turkey peace
Despite Abdullah Ocalan’s call for a ceasefire and withdrawal of militants to northern Iraq, there are no clear details of how a lasting PKK-Turkey peace will be implemented. The next steps need to be announced quickly to sustain energy surrounding the new peace initiative.
This past week I was in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s majority-Kurdish southeast region. The message from Kurdish politicians was this is the last chance for the Turkish government to make peace. The coming generation of Kurdish militants have grown up only knowing war and faced intense repression from Turkish security forces. They are likely to be less willing than their elders to make a compromise to end the conflict.
Several of these Kurdish youths told me what steps they wanted to see next from the Turkish government in order to build a lasting peace.
Amed said that Turkey needed to change its laws to work for its citizens.
“Justice must be for protecting the people,” he said. “But in Turkey it works the opposite way. The laws are working against the people.”
Ronni said the Turkish government must make public statements about why Kurdish identity was denied in the past and “confess the truth” and its “lies” to Turkish society.
Celel, 32, who was released from prison only two months ago, said the government must release other Kurdish prisoners.
The jailed Mr. Ocalan’s historic call for peace was read at traditional Nowruz festivities in Diyarbakir. The announcement marked the beginning of the new peace initiative, which is viewed by international observers as having the best chance for solving the conflict, possibly ever, because it directly involves Mr. Ocalan and Turkey’s powerful Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two men hold command of their constituencies and together have the power to end the conflict.
Kurds in Diyarbakir were enthralled to hear Mr. Ocalan’s words read aloud, but their response to the message was less than ecstatic. They trust Mr. Ocalan, but have little faith that the Turkish government will not betray them again.
Ceasefires are nothing new in the decades-long conflict and concessions and clear steps forward are needed for Kurds to have confidence in the new initiative. Kurdish optimism surrounding this latest call for peace stems from possessing no alternative except to continue their already decades-long armed struggle.
Tragically, while in Diyarbakir I learned that Piremerd, a young Kurd from Diyarbakir that I met in 2010, was killed fighting for the PKK. He’d just been released from jail. Over the next few years he continued to face police harassment. It became too much and he left Diyarbakir to join the PKK. Later, he died in battle.
Only a lasting peace built on clear social reconciliation between Turks and Kurds will ensure future generations do not meet the same fate.