Öcalan’s ceasefire will have momentous implications for the broader Kurdish movements in the region

March 22, 2013 – AFP / REUTERS  – :  The ceasefire call, set out in a letter penned by the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)  raises hopes for a permanent end to a three-decade conflict with Turkey that has cost tens of thousands of lives, most of them Kurds.The ceasefire call “will have momentous implications for the broader Kurdish movements in the region,” said Jane Kinninmont of London-based Chatham House. “It may signal that there are more options for Kurdish aspirations to be strengthened within the existing regional state system.”

But, she noted, “there is a tension between the idealism of these dreams (of a pan-Kurdish state) and the realism of political leaders operating within the Middle East system of nation-states that are all multi-ethnic and multi-religious but have latent fears of their own fragmentation.” Originally of Indo-European origin, Kurds in the Middle East are predominantly Sunni Muslim and number between 25 and 35 million, with a language and cultural system that make them distinct from Arabs, Turks and Persians.

Ocalan’s ceasefire call has mooted the prospect of a long-lasting peace in a country where government forces and PKK separatist rebels have long clashed. Progress has, however, been limited in Iran, where the western province of Kordestan has seen deadly clashes between Iranian security forces and the PJAK Kurdish rebel group, which operates out of rear-bases in neighbouring Iraq.

“It may be too early for us to judge and to predict, but the important thing is that there have been some positive developments and steps in the right direction,” Falah Mustafa, head of the foreign affairs department in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, told AFP. “I am positive and optimistic,” he added, “because 25 years ago, we were gassed with chemical weapons.”

“We suffered.”