Dec.17- the settlement process & the Kurds / By Orhan Miroglu

TR_ISTA – 12.02.2014 11:24:50 CIHAN BETA – When we look at the statements made about the corruption probe launched on Dec. 17, 2013, we can see that the Kurdish people have reacted differently to the extraordinary developments that we have experienced since the probe became public than people living in the western parts of the country.

On the one hand, the Kurds have said that allegations of corruption should be investigated and that those who are involved in corruption should be brought to trial; on the other hand, they have also interpreted the corruption probe as an attempt to undermine the settlement process launched by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government to find a peaceful and political solution to the decades-old Kurdish dispute and the armed conflict. This is how the Kurdish community perceived the corruption probe. Moreover, this is not only Kurdish people who support the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), but it is also how Kurdish intellectuals and NGOs that oppose the PKK and the BDP perceive the corruption probe.

Has the settlement process been affected by the developments that have followed the corruption probe? And if the answer is yes, then how has the settlement process been affected by those developments?

I believe that since the probe became public on Dec. 17, the settlement process has begun to be more appreciated; Turkey has started to reconsider the settlement process and give it more support.

Despite all the efforts to drag the Kurdish people into the Gezi Park protests, Kurdish politicians distanced themselves from the protests and the Kurdish people did not voice strong opposition when PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is currently serving his life term in İmralı Prison on an island off the coast of İstanbul, defined the corruption probe as a coup attempt against the government. Even prominent PKK dissidents think that Öcalan has adopted the correct stance about both the Gezi Park protests and the corruption probe.

The impact of the corruption probe on the activities of the Hizmet movement in the eastern region from Arbil to Diyarbakır was another issue of concern. But I would like to note that the preliminary impression is that nothing will be the same in the region after Dec. 17, 2013.

The negotiations between the state’s intelligence units and Öcalan continued. The visit of Leyla Zana, an independent pro-Kurdish deputy from Diyarbakır, to İmralı Island to meet with Öcalan was important because the meeting was about the national Kurdish conference. It is claimed that Öcalan has written a letter to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani about the national Kurdish conference.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan frequently underlines that there will not be any stagnation in the settlement process. In addition, the meetings between Öcalan and pro-Kurdish deputies have not been interrupted; on the contrary, they have intensified.

The BDP’s mayoral candidate for the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Sırrı Süreyya Önder, has announced that Öcalan may have a meeting soon with members of the media. Considering this possibility of a meeting between Öcalan and media members as evidence that all of Öcalan’s demands are being met by the state, nationalist and neo-nationalist groups are voicing their opposition for the approval of such a meeting by the Justice Ministry.

These groups argue that Öcalan is a terrorist who has been sentenced to life imprisonment and thus a meeting between Öcalan and the media is unacceptable. But the truth is entirely different. Öcalan is the one who put an end to the decades-old armed conflict. The political influence of the BDP and the PKK over Kurdish people has not waned, but rather it has increased. Whether you accept it or not, Öcalan is a strong political figure. Thus, he is not an ordinary prisoner. During the last 14 years, regardless of the means that he used, he was able to give instructions to PKK members. If his speaking will be more beneficial than his silence for the establishment of permanent peace in Turkey, he should speak.

He should also speak for a softening in the government’s policies toward the PKK, Öcalan and even the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian offshoot of the PKK in northern Syria and the creation of a more clear and transparent atmosphere in Turkey’s efforts to solve the Kurdish issue. This week, PYD Co-chair Asya Abdullah attended the BDP’s parliamentary group meeting and this was a very important political message. As you may remember, it has been reported that he has previously not been allowed to enter Turkey.

We can say that the corruption probe has made the government that launched the settlement process stronger instead of weakening it. There reason for this situation is simple: Neither Kurds nor Turks want to see that an atmosphere of uncertainty or chaos which may restart armed conflict between the PKK and the state’s security forces is created.

ORHAN MİROĞLU (Cihan/Today’s Zaman) –