19 October 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, ANKARA – Leading representatives of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have said that the democratization package the government announced at the end of last month comes to mean the end of the settlement process.
“Nothing came out of the package in terms of a democratic solution,” said Bese Hozat, co-chair of the terrorist KCK Executive Council, describing the package as a declaration on the part of the government of the end of the process. The PKK and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have long accused the government of not taking necessary steps as part of the settlement process the government launched at the end of last year with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, to resolve the country’s decades-old terrorism problem. Maintaining that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is not sincere in its efforts to resolve the country’s Kurdish issue, Hozat said on the PKK’s television channel on Thursday evening that “the true colors of the AKP have emerged.”
Although the latest democratization package announced at the end of September opened the way for instruction in one’s native language at private schools and for the BDP to get funded by the state, as the election threshold will be decreased from 10 percent to 5, the package fell short of meeting the expectations of the PKK and the BDP, which demanded that education in one’s mother tongue be allowed at public schools and the Kurdish identity be recognized in the Constitution.
The package did not contain anything about Kurdish autonomy, which, as opposed to Öcalan, the BDP and the PKK demanded in Turkey’s Southeast. “The AKP [AK Party] will continue with its policy of stalling and deceiving. The AKP declared that with this package,” Hozat maintained.
The settlement process has at present been stalled, as the PKK earlier in September stopped withdrawing its terrorists from Turkey, claiming that the government has failed to do its share as part of the process. The government, for its part, criticized the PKK, until around a month ago, for not having withdrawn all its terrorists from Turkey as part of the first stage of the settlement process.
Gülten Kışanak, a BDP co-chair, has also sent out a stern warning to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the prime minister’s warning about negative statements made by the BDP regarding the settlement process. “You know better than me what will fill the void when people stop talking,” said Kışanak on Thursday in response to criticism by Erdoğan.
Kışanak’s words implied a covert threat that the terrorist PKK, with which the Turkish government had launched a settlement process to resolve the country’s decades-old terrorism problem, may re-engage in terrorism, which stopped since the end of last year when the process was launched.
Yalçın Akdoğan, chief advisor to Prime Minister Erdoğan, dismissed criticism by BDP deputies regarding the government’s position on the settlement process. Referring to relatively positive remarks by Öcalan about the process following a visit by the latest BDP delegation to Öcalan in prison on Monday, Akdoğan said in his column in the Star daily on Friday that some did not like it when Öcalan said he was still hopeful about the process. “Every step the government has taken [so far] is equally raising hopes and trust regarding the [settlement] process,” Akdoğan said. Following recent harsh remarks by BDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, Erdoğan warned the BDP in the past week against making statements that may serve to derail the already fragile settlement process. Calling on the BDP to strive in its messages not to put the party on bad terms with the Ministry of Justice, Erdoğan said at the beginning of the week: “If the tone of the messages given [by the BDP] remains as is, then the party’s relations with the Ministry of Justice will sour, thereby rendering it impossible for such talk [with Öcalan] to take place [in the future] because, as the government, we cannot say yes to such messages, loaded with threats and which cross the line.”
Apparently disappointed by the government’s attitude in the settlement process, BDP Co-chair Demirtaş, who was not included — allegedly because of his critical remarks about the process — in the BDP delegation to visit Öcalan in prison at the beginning of the week, earlier said: “The [democratization] package [the government announced] has nothing to do with the settlement process. There is no dialogue, either. The government has de facto ended the settlement process.”
Accusing Erdoğan of threatening to cut dialogue with the BDP, Kışanak went on to criticize the prime minister: “You can [cut dialogue] if you want, but say that in a straightforward way,” Kışanak said. Noting that the main character of the settlement process is to open the way for free expression of ideas in Kurdish politics, the BDP co-chair cautioned that “if the BDP keeps quiet, then all the possibilities for a [peaceful] solution [to the Kurdish issue] will be lost.”
The BDP has long criticized the government for having unjustly arrested people with ties to the KCK, while the government has insistently said the people being tried in KCK cases are, if not terrorists themselves, directly involved in PKK-related activities such as aiding and abetting a terrorist organization. Hundreds of people have been arrested in KCK cases, although some people have been released in past months following the passing of new legislation by the government as part of a democratization package and the settlement process.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay criticized deputies from the BDP for uttering remarks that may come to mean that the settlement process is no longer on the table. Maintaining that those BDP deputies have not the least bit understood what the government is trying to do, Atalay said, “All the other dialogues continue.” He added on Channel Seven that “[those in the] Kandil [Mountains] and [Öcalan] on İmralı [Island] act more consistently, reasonably than the BDP.”
According to a recent public opinion poll conducted by the Konsensüs polling company, the majority of respondents — 62.3 percent — said they support the settlement process with the terrorist PKK to end the terrorism in the country, with 29 percent expressing disapproval with it, while 8.7 percent said they have no information about the content of the process.
A full 39.2 percent of respondents find the government’s fight against the PKK has been successful, a 16 percent increase over last year. While 36.1 percent believe the government failed in its PKK policy, 24.7 percent say it is neither successful nor a failure. The poll results also display an increase in approval rates with the talks with imprisoned PKK leader Öcalan. With a 25 percent increase in the past nine months, 43 percent said they approve of the state talking to Öcalan in an effort to solve the PKK problem. However, the majority of respondents — 59.2 percent — do not want the BDP deputies to meet with Öcalan on İmralı Island, where he is serving a life sentence.
Education in mother tongue to be available in high schools next term
Education in one’s native tongue other than Turkish, a step made possible by the latest democratization package announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the end of September, will only be available at some private high schools in the 2014-2015 school year, the Milliyet daily reported on Friday.
Based on demand from students, schools will open a preparatory class for learning Kurdish before the first year of high school. According to the daily, Kurdish courses at various levels, including intensive and advanced courses, will be available. In addition, if the Ministry of Education grants permission, some of the country’s private secondary schools will be able to teach some math and science courses in Kurdish.
Private high schools will employ teachers able to teach math, physics, biology and chemistry in Kurdish. As there are no trained teachers in Turkey for such a position, schools will be able to hire teachers from northern Iraq or Europe..