MALE & FEMALE : Kurdish journalists in Iraq see boon for settlement process in Ankara-KRG ties

24 April 2013 /HANİFE SEVDE KÖSE, SULAIMANIYA –Zaman – Journalists in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region have thrown their weight behind the ongoing settlement process initiated by the Turkish government with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), adding that the flourishing ties between northern Iraq and Turkey can contribute to the process.

Kurdish and Turkish journalists came together in Sulaimaniya, a city considered to be the cultural capital of the region, on Sunday to discuss the role of media, particularly that of female journalists, in maintaining social peace.

The workshop, sponsored by Turkey’s Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) and the Female Journalists Union of Kurdistan, comes at a time when new developments in Turkey’s settlement process and the influence of media top the agenda nearly every day.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the workshop, Dr. Shirko Mirza, both a veteran journalist of 20 years and a lecturer at the University of Sulaimani, said that perceptions of Turkey in the territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have largely changed today. In the past, due to the oppression of Turkey’s Kurdish population under the Kemalist regime, Iraq’s Kurds opposed everything coming out of Turkey, said Mirza. “But now, this dominant opinion about Turkey has begun to fade away,” he added.

Dr. Nazakat Hussein, who also lectures on media at the University of Sulaimani, told Today’s Zaman that although they sometimes found it hard to forget the atrocities committed over the years on Turkey’s Kurds, they now fully support and appreciate the efforts toward solving the issue, efforts they hope will be successful. She also added that if the intention to make peace is real, it will indeed succeed. Turkish state authorities, with the aim of achieving a timetable for the disarmament of PKK terrorists and putting an end to Turkey’s terrorism problem, have been holding settlement negotiations with the terrorist PKK group’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, since last October. Öcalan has significant influence among PKK members and supporters and the state believes talks with Öcalan will achieve their goals of a withdrawal and, in the long run, full disarmament.

In relation to the settlement process in Turkey, Mirza commented that Turkish leaders as well as officials have approached the Kurdish issue from a humanitarian point of view. Mirza added that the blossoming ties between the autonomous region in Iraq and Turkey could be taken to new levels as a result of the successful completion of the settlement process, underlining that the process had highly affected the views held of Turkey by Iraqi Kurds. When asked about the role of media in the settlement process, Hussein said that although the media has the potential to influence the process in both positive and negative ways, the language used by the Turkish media has so far largely contributed to the negotiations. Mirza said the visit by Turkish journalists to the Kurdish region was an example of the constructive role media can play in the effort to settle the issues of terrorism in Turkey.