Reopening Turkey’s Closed Kurdish Opening? By : Michael Gunter

Middle East Policy, Vol. XX, No. 2, Summer 2013

Dr. Gunter is a professor of political science at Tennessee Technological University. He has written nine books on the Kurdish people.

The effort to find a solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey is nothing new. It has been continuing ever since the Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — formally founded on November 27, 1978 — began its violent uprising on August 15, 1984.1 Over the years, PKK goals have evolved from initial plans to establish an independent Marxist state to current ones for the recognition of Kurdish political, social and cultural rights within a decentralized Turkey. However, Turkey has long considered the PKK a terrorist movement, a designation also accepted by its allies, the United States and the European Union (EU). Therefore, in most cases, the efforts to achieve peace have simply amounted to attempts to impose it by military means and, until recently, without any meaningful political reforms.

Nevertheless, over the years, the PKK had declared numerous unilateral ceasefires with the stated intention of having them lead to peace negotiations. In most cases, Turkey ignored these PKK ceasefires, deeming them mere signs of PKK weakness and imminent defeat.2 The only important exception occurred in March 1993, when then-Turkish President Turgut Ozal appeared close to accepting one of these PKK offers to negotiate. Ozal’s sudden death on April 17, 1993, however, ended the effort, and even heavier fighting soon ensued.

Turkey’s increasing military pressure in the late 1990s finally led to PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan’s being forced out of his safe house in Syria in October 1998; he was eventually captured by Turkish commandos in Nairobi, Kenya, on February 15, 1999.3 At that time, Ocalan’s capture seemed to end the conflict. The PKK declared another ceasefire and withdrew its forces from Turkey into the largely inaccessible Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq, bordering on Iran. However, Turkey continued to dismiss PKK offers to negotiate and demanded what amounted to a total surrender. By the summer of 2004, violence had begun again and gradually escalated so that by 2012 there were more deaths from the fighting than at any time since the late 1990s.

However, in the summer of 2009, the Kurdish problem in Turkey4 seemed on the verge of a solution when the ruling Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party, or AKP),5 government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gul announced a Kurdish Opening or Kurdish Initiative (also known as the Democratic Opening/ Initiative). Gul declared that “the biggest

Gunter: Reopening Turkey’s Closed Kurdish Opening?

The PKK’s “peace group” gambit on

October 18, 2009 — to return 34 PKK members from northern Iraq home to

Turkey — also backfired badly when these

Kurdish expatriates were met by huge

welcoming crowds at the Habur border

crossing and later in Diyarbakir. These

celebrations were broadcast throughout

Turkey and proved too provocative for

even moderate Turks, who perceived the

affair as some sort of PKK victory parade.

The Peace Group affair seemed to prove

that the government had not thought out

the implications of its Kurdish Opening

and could not manage its implementation,

let alone its consequences.

Then, on December 11, 2009, the

Constitutional Court, after mulling over

the issue for more than two years, suddenly

banned the pro-Kurdish Demokratik

Toplum Partisi (Democratic Society Party,

DTP) because of its close association with

the PKK. Although the Baris ve Demokrasi

Partisi (Peace and Democracy Party,

BDP), quickly took the DTP’s place, the

state-ordered banning of the DTP could

not have come at a worse time; it put the

kiss of death to the Kurdish Opening. In

addition, more than 1,000 BDP and other

Kurdish notables were placed under arrest

for their supposed support of the PKK,

in yet another body blow to the Kurdish

Opening.12 Soon the entire country was

ablaze with fury, and the Kurdish Opening

seemed closed. The mountain had not

even given birth to a mouse, and the entire

Kurdish question seemed to have been set

back to square one.13

In May 2010, the Kurdistan National

Congress (KNK), an arm of the PKK,

charged that, since April 2009, more than

1,500 politicians, human-rights advocates,

writers, artisans and leaders of civil-society

organizations had been arrested. In addition,

problem of Turkey is the Kurdish question”

and that “there is an opportunity [to

solve it] and it should not be missed.”6

Erdoğan asked: “If Turkey had not spent

its energy, budget, peace and young people

on [combating] terrorism; if Turkey had

not spent the last 25 years in conflict,

where would we be today?”7 Even the

insurgent PKK itself, still led ultimately by

imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan, briefly

took Turkey’s Kurdish Opening seriously.8

For a fleeting moment, optimism ran high.

What happened? The main purpose of this

article is to analyze the initial failure of the

Turkish government’s Kurdish Opening of

2009 and its reopening, which began at the

end of 2012.


Shortly after its initial announcement,

it became evident that the AKP government

had not thought out its Kurdish

Opening very well; it then also proved

rather inept in trying to implement it. Specific

proposals were lacking. Furthermore,

despite AKP appeals to support its Kurdish

Opening, all three of the parliamentary opposition

parties declined. Indeed, the CHP

(Kemalists or Nationalists) accused the

AKP of “separatism, [bowing] to the goals

of the terrorist PKK, violating the Constitution,

causing fratricide and/or ethnic polarization

between Kurds and Turks, being

an agent of foreign states, and even betraying

the country,”9 while the MHP (Ultra

Turkish Nationalists) “declared the AKP

to be dangerous and accused it of treason

and weakness.”10 Even the pro-Kurdish

DTP failed to be engaged; it declined to

condemn the PKK as the AKP government

had demanded.11 Erdoğan, too, began to

fear that any perceived concessions to the

Kurds would hurt his Turkish nationalist

base and future presidential hopes.

Middle East Policy, Vol. XX, No. 2, Summer 2013

would be based on guidelines already listed

in the European Charter of Local Self-Government

adopted in 1985 and now ratified

by 41 states, including Turkey — with

numerous important conditions, however

— and the European Charter of Regional

Self-Government, which is still only in

draft form. Thus, one might actually argue

that earlier BDP proposals for some local

autonomy would bring Turkey into conformity

with EU guidelines by giving the

Kurds local self-government. Moreover,

one might also argue that the millet system

of the former Ottoman Empire offered a

historical model for local autonomy or

proto-federalism in Turkey.

However, the AKP was appalled when

the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Congress

(DTK) — a new nongovernmental

organization (NGO) that is close to the

PKK and BDP — met in Diyarbakir in

mid-December 2010 and outlined its solution

for democratic autonomy. It envisaged

Kurdish as a second official language, a

separate flag and a Marxist-style organizational

model for Kurdish society. The

DTK’s draft also broached the vague

idea of “self-defense forces” that would

be used not only against external forces,

but against the subjects of the so-called

democratic-autonomy initiative, who were

not participating in what was called the


The Turkish Republic created by

Kemal Ataturk in 1923 has always been a

strongly centralized state. Radical decentralization

as proposed by the PKK

and BDP goes against this strong mindset

and would thus be most problematic.

On the other hand, states such as Britain

and France, famous for their centralized

unitary structure, have recently rolled

back centuries of constitutional forms in

favor of what they consider a necessary

4,000 children had been taken to court and

400 of them imprisoned for participating

in demonstrations. Osman Baydemir, the

popular ethnic Kurdish mayor of Diyarbakir,

was scheduled to go to court on charges

of “membership in a terror organization,”

while Muharrem Erbey, the vice chairman

of Turkey’s largest human-rights organization,

the Human Rights Association (IHD),

had already been imprisoned. Jess Hess,

an American freelance journalist, had been

deported for reporting critically on humanrights

abuses against the Kurds.14


Although the AKP won practically 50

percent of the popular vote, or 326 seats,15

in the parliamentary elections on June 12,

2011, while the BDP and its allies won

a record 36,16 new problems soon arose,

and hopes for a more successful Kurdish

Opening quickly foundered. Secretive talks

between Ocalan in his prison on the island

of Imrali17 and other senior PKK leaders

in Oslo with Turkish officials from the

National Intelligence Organization (MIT)

broke down.18 Violence flared to heights

not reached since the late 1990s.

Ocalan’s Proposals

Although Ocalan’s 160-page roadmap

for solving the Kurdish problem was confiscated

by Turkish authorities in August

2009 and therefore never even submitted,

its basic contents are known from testimony

at his trial for treason in 199919 and from

subsequent statements over the years.20 In

essence, the imprisoned PKK leader has

proposed a democratization and decentralization

of the Turkish state into what he

has termed at various times a democratic

republic, a democratic confederalism, a

democratic nation, or a democratic homeland.

Such autonomy and decentralization

problem. He also broke off contact with

the BDP and continued to declare that the

Kurdish problem had been solved and that

only a PKK problem remained.22

Then, on July 14, 2011, the DTK, the

umbrella pro-Kurdish NGO mentioned

above, proclaimed “democratic autonomy,”

a declaration that seemed wildly premature

and over-blown to many observers

and infuriated Turkish officialdom. Amidst

mutual accusations concerning who was

initiating the renewed violence and warlike rhetoric,23

the Turkish military on August 17, 2011, launched several days of

cross-border attacks on reported PKK targets

in northern Iraq’s Kandil Mountains.

The Turkish government claimed to have

killed 100 Kurdish rebels, while the PKK

maintained that it had lost only three fighters

and that an additional seven local Iraqi

Kurdish civilians had also been killed.24

Violence continued on June 19, 2012,

when the PKK attacked Diglica, a Turkish

outpost near the Iraqi frontier, and

killed eight soldiers, wounding another

16.25 The same outpost had been hit five

years earlier, so the latest strike seemed to

illustrate the lack of Turkish progress in

controlling the violence, viewed by many

as a result of the state’s failure to negotiate

with the PKK. Others argued, however,

that the ultimate problem was the inherent

ethnic Turkish inability to accept the

fact that Turkey should be considered a

multiethnic state in which the Kurds share

constitutional rights as co-stakeholders.

Moreover, during 2011 and 2012, more

leading intellectuals have been rounded

up for alleged affiliations with the KCK/

decentralization. Far from leading to their

breakup as states, this decentralization has

satisfied local particularism and checked

possible demands for future independence.

Thus, far from threatening its national

unity, some Turkish decentralization might

help preserve it.

However, given that more than half of

Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish population does

not even live in its historical southeastern

Anatolian homeland but is scattered


the country,

especially in

such cities as

Istanbul, as

well as the fact

that a sizable

number of Turkey’s ethnic Kurds have

assimilated into a larger Turkish civic

identity, a radical decentralization that

would be incompatible with modern Turkey’s

heritage may not be necessary. What

is needed, however, is for the state to begin

seriously talking with the most important,

genuine representatives of its disaffected

Kurdish minority: the PKK.

If Turkey is going to resume negotiating

with Ocalan and the PKK, of course,

the time must surely come for Turkey to

cease calling the PKK a terrorist organization

and challenge it to negotiate peacefully.

The term “terrorism” distorts the

discussion. It not only prevents the two

main parties from fully negotiating with

each other; it also impedes the European

Union and the United States from playing

stronger roles in the process.

Shortly after the election results of

June 2011 had been announced, newly reelected

Prime Minister Erdoğan seemed to

turn his back on an earlier promise to seek

consensus on the drafting of a new constitution

that would help solve the Kurdish

What is needed is for the state to begin

seriously talking with the most important,

genuine representatives of its disaffected

Kurdish minority: the PKK.

trial detentions, effectively denying them

freedom in the absence of any proof that

they have committed a crime. Although

precise figures are unavailable, Human

Rights Watch has declared that several

thousand are currently on trial, and that another

605 are in pretrial detention on KCK/

PKK-related charges.31


Recent events offer cautious hope that the time to renew the dialogue and resume

direct negotiations between the Turkish

government and the PKK may have arrived.

In late October 2012, for example, a

report in the respected news outlet Zaman

declared, “The government is preparing

to launch a new initiative to deal with the

Kurdish problem to hopefully pave the way

for arms to be buried for good.”32 The Zaman

report went on to say that the government

had learned from the past what steps

would not work. It concluded cryptically,

“Therefore, actors and factors that had

a part in the previous peace process will

not be included in the new process, while

for some other actors the government will

reach a decision based on observation of

the present attitude of those actors.”

The civil war in Syria might also be

encouraging a reprise of Turkey’s Kurdish

Opening. In July 2012, the embattled

Assad regime suddenly pulled its troops

out of Syria’s largely Kurdish-populated

northeastern area, and a de facto autonomy

quickly settled in. At first, Turkey showed

its traditional hostility to this development,

lest it spur Turkey’s own disaffected Kurds

to make similar demands for autonomy.

However, a more nuanced Turkish position

surely required a settlement with its own

disaffected Kurds — to

provide insulation

from the increasing instability threatening

to overflow Turkey’s southern border.

PKK,26 whose proposals for democratic

autonomy seem to suggest an alternative

government. Many of those arrested were

also affiliated with the BDP.

In addition, Leyla Zana, the famous

female Kurdish leader and BDP member

of parliament, was once again sentenced

to prison on May 24, 2012, for “spreading

propaganda” on behalf of the PKK.

The charges concerned nine speeches she

had made over the years in which she had

argued for recognition of the Kurdish identity,

called Ocalan a Kurdish leader, and

urged the reopening of peace negotiations

between Turkey and the PKK. In 1994,

Zana had been stripped of her membership

in parliament and imprisoned for 10

years on similar charges. However, for the

time being Zana remains free, given her

current parliamentary immunity. Interestingly,

shortly afterwards, she declared that

she had confidence in Erdoğan’s ability

to solve the Kurdish problem.27 On June

30, 2012, she actually met with the prime

minister, an event that caused bitter debate

within in the Kurdish community but

seemed to me a positive step.28

These aforementioned arrests and sentencings

point to serious problems. First,

there is the nature of the crimes, which

allege no violence. Mere “association”

is enough to be counted as a terrorist. In

addition, the connections are tenuous. As

Human Rights Watch has noted, “There is

scant evidence to suggest the defendants

engaged in any acts that could be defined

as terrorism as it is understood in international

law.”29 Second, the arrests come at

a time when Turkey is planning to develop

a new constitution.30 The silencing of pro-

Kurdish voices as constitutional debates go

forward is counterproductive for Turkey’s

future. Finally, there is the way suspects

are treated. Virtually all are subject to pre-

In late October 2012, Erdoğan’s visit

to Turkey’s Kurdish-populated southeast

led to speculation that he was about to

start a new opening to solve the Kurdish

problem. Erdoğan had already said he was

prepared to relaunch talks with Abdullah

Ocalan, the PKK leader still jailed on the

island of Imrali. Indeed, Erdoğan even declared

that the Turkish intelligence service

could “do anything at any moment. . . .

For example, if it is necessary to go to Imrali

tomorrow, I will tell the MIT chief to

go ahead.”33 Hasip Kaplan, a leading BDP

MP, actually suggested that new negotiations

were already underway: “I presume

that talks on Imrali have started anew.”

One reason for Erdoğan’s interest in

a renewed Kurdish Opening might be the

upcoming local elections. Erdoğan’s AKP

and the pro-Kurdish BDP were expected

to be the main rivals for support in the

southeastern Kurdish region. During the

prime minister’s recent visit to this area,

he reminded the locals that his governing

AKP was in a better position to provide basic

services for them than the pro-Kurdish

nationalist BDP. The immediate question

was whether the national elections of 2007,

when the AKP prevailed over the BDP’s

DTP predecessor in the region, or the 2009

local elections, when the DTP trumped the

AKP, would attract the voters.

Indeed, by January 2013, it was clear

that the Turkish government had renewed

the Kurdish Opening and that tentative

negotiations with the imprisoned Ocalan

had begun.34 The sudden murder of three

PKK activists in Paris on January 10,

2013, appeared to be an attempt to sabotage

these negotiations.35 Nevertheless,

subsequent reports indicated that officials

from the MIT were already meeting again

with such prominent PKK leaders in Europe

as Sabri Ok, while other negotiations

involved Ocalan.36

By the beginning of March 2013, these

contacts seemed to be moving forward

when a BDP group arrived in Sulaymaniya

in Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq to deliver a

message from Ocalan to the PKK guerrilla

leaders ensconced in the Kandil Mountains

bordering Iraq and Iran.37 A similar letter

was sent to senior PKK leaders in Europe.

In his letter, Ocalan spoke about a ceasefire,

the withdrawal of PKK fighters from

Turkey, the release of PKK prisoners, the

disarming and reintegration of some 7,000

PKK fighters into Turkish society, and constitutional


In doing this, the imprisoned PKK

leader struck both optimistic and pessimistic


Everybody should know that we will

neither live nor fight as we used to. .

. . You should know well that neither

I nor the state will take a step back.

[We will achieve] a historic peace and

transition to democratic life.

Ocalan then explained,

The PKK’s withdrawal from Turkey

will be after a Parliament ruling

and the Turkish Grand Assembly

will approve it, a truth commission

will be established. [Kurdish people

who were exiled] will return to their

villages. If these conditions are not

met, the [PKK’s] withdrawal will not

become real.

Ocalan also elaborated on the subsequent

political environment he expected

after “the establishment of peace. . . . Neither

house arrest nor amnesty, there will

be no need for those. We will all be free.”

However, if the peace process fails, “a

ment in Edinburgh to see how power might

devolve from the center successfully, a

crucial point in the current bargaining

between Turkey and the PKK. The Turkish

government has also established an interdepartmental

agency — with responsibilities

ranging from security to education and social policy — to coordinate

policy and responses concerning the Kurdish

question. The agency’s head was a recent

participant in the visits to Britain.

For its part, the EU parliament endorsed

the reopened Kurdish peace process

in a special session. Lucinda Creighton,

an Irish politician speaking for the EU

presidency, stated: “It is clear that the

wider Kurdish issue can only be addressed

through a peaceful, comprehensive and

sustainable solution.”43 Stefan Fule, the

EU enlargement commissioner, added

that the reopened talks were “historic . . .

[and] would have a strong impact on the

[EU] accession process of Turkey as such,

as it would further consolidate the role of

the European Union as a benchmark for

reforms in Turkey.”

Unfortunately, these hopes for a successful

conclusion of Turkey’s new Kurdish

Opening appear tenuous for several

reasons. Enormous differences between

the two sides remain. The AKP government

seeks to solve the issue by having

the PKK disarm and its fighters involved

in previous violence seek asylum in

other countries, in exchange for the mere

removal of legal restrictions on Kurdish

identity and language. The PKK, however,

civil war will begin with 50,000 people.”

As for the Turkish side, public-opinion

polls showed that the renewed Kurdish

peace talks had tentative public support,

a great change from the past, when any

such suggestions were liable to bring


of treason.


the Turkish


has begun

to humanize

Ocalan in an

effort to pave

the way for

talks. Ocalan’s successful call for some

600 supporters to end a hunger strike that

was creating dangerous repercussions for

the government in the fall of 2012 was an

example of his own efforts.

In addition, Erdoğan declared that, “if

drinking poison hemlock is necessary, we

can also drink it to bring peace and welfare

to this country.”38 An AKP member of

parliament from Diyarbakir, Galip Ensarioglu,

said that “Ocalan is more reasonable

than those who are outside. Ocalan is

acting responsibly and [this] is a chance

for Turkey.”39 Hakan Fidan,40 the head of

MIT — who was involved in the earlier

Oslo talks with senior PKK leaders — has

been speaking with Ocalan since late 2012.

According to Ayla Akat, a BDP member

of parliament who recently visited Ocalan:

“Fidan and Ocalan have managed to

understand each other.”41

Background preparation has already

brought Turks and Kurds together in

Britain and Northern Ireland to learn about

the successful Good Friday Accords that

finally brought peace to that ancient quarrel.

42 Erdoğan has approved these contacts.

One such visit was to the Scottish parlia-

Background preparation has already

brought Turks and Kurds together in

Britain and Northern Ireland to learn

about the successful Good Friday

Accords that finally brought peace to that

ancient quarrel.

1 Earlier uprisings occurred in the 1920s and 1930s. See Robert Olson, The Emergence of Kurdish Nationalism

and the Sheikh Said Rebellion, 1880-1925 (University of Texas Press, 1989); and David McDowall, A

Modern History of the Kurds, third revised ed. (I.B. Tauris, 2004). In addition, several legal pro-Kurdish

parties have existed since the early 1990s. Although they have been eventually banned by the Turkish government,

they too have played a role in what are in effect negotiations. See Nicole F. Watts, Activists in Office:

Kurdish Politics and Protest in Turkey (University of Washington Press, 2010).

2 For more on these earlier missed opportunities to find a solution, see Henri J. Barkey and Graham E. Fuller,

“Turkey’s Kurdish Question: Critical Turning Points and Missed Opportunities,” Middle East Journal 51

(Winter 1997): 59-79.

3 For more on this topic, see Michael M. Gunter, “The Continuing Kurdish Problem in Turkey after Ocalan’s

Capture, Third World Quarterly 21 (October 2000): 849-69.

wants meaningful autonomy that would

give their supporters, including Ocalan

himself, significant power. If the historical

record is any guide, the Turkish government

will never be willing to grant such

concessions; it would seem to be leading

to the state’s break-up. In addition, disarming

the PKK would prove exceedingly

difficult, especially given its stated position

that it should have a role in maintaining

security in Turkey’s southeastern

Kurdish provinces. An ironic facet to all

this is Erdoğan’s attempt to gain Ocalan’s

and the BDP’s support for a new Turkish

constitution in which Erdoğan would

occupy the new position of “super-president.”

Ocalan, however, has responded to

the effect that American-style checks and

balances would be needed.44

All this leads to whether the costs of

the current fighting are really so high as

to demand a settlement. Probably they are

not. As Nihat Ali Ozcan, a Turkish counterterrorist

official, has asserted: “We can

tolerate 500 deaths a year. It’s considered

normal.”45 Indeed, there remain many

elements in both Turkey’s security-minded

Deep State and its PKK equivalent that actually

see themselves as benefiting from a

continuation of the fighting. Surely neither

side is ready to surrender its key positions

for an unfavorable peace that would be

seen as a betrayal of all the suffering that

has been endured.

Finally, even if Ocalan agrees to a

settlement, it is unclear whether he would

be able to bring along the hardcore PKK

guerrillas in the Kandil Mountains, among

others. After all, the titular PKK leader has

grown old as a prisoner in Imrali for more

than 14 years. New PKK leadership and

cadres have come of age who are unlikely

to meekly give up their positions on the

mere words of a person many probably

see as out of touch with current realities.

Ocalan can be still accepted as the PKK

head while imprisoned, but if he were to

seek to become the arbitrator of actual

daily events, it might be a very different

situation. Indeed, Ocalan himself recently

suggested that his colleagues in the Kandil

Mountains were not as enthusiastic about

his peace efforts: “Even the PKK does

not understand me. . . . Qandil [Kandil] is

pessimistic; it would be good if they get

over it. . . . I’m angry with them.”46 Thus,

although the current reopening offers a

historic opportunity,47 clearly there remain

many serious obstacles to overcome before

any permanent settlement can be reached.

4 For recent analyses of the Kurdish problem in Turkey, see Mustafa Cosar Unal, Counterterrorism in Turkey:

Policy Choices and Policy Effects toward the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) (Routledge, 2012); Marlies

Casier and Joost Jongerden, eds., Nationalisms and Politics in Turkey: Political Islam, Kemalism and the

Kurdish Issue (Routledge, 2011); Michael M. Gunter, The Kurds Ascending: The Evolving Solution to the

Kurdish Problem in Iraq and Turkey, second ed. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); and Aliza Marcus, Blood and

Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence (New York University Press, 2007), among others.

In addition, see the proceedings of the Ninth Annual International Conference of the EU Turkey Civic

Commission (EUTCC), “The Kurdish Question in Turkey: Time to Renew the Dialogue and Resume Direct

Negotiations,” December 5-6, 2012, European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium. For some of these proceedings,

see Also see my earlier comments in Michael Gunter, “The Closing of Turkey’s Kurdish

Opening,” Journal of International Affairs (online), September 12, 2012.

5 For recent scholarly work on the AK Party (AKP), see Umit Cizre, ed., Secular and Islamic Politics in Turkey:

The Making of the Justice and Development Party (Routledge, 2007); William Hale and Ergun Ozbudun,

Islamism, Democracy and Liberalism in Turkey: The Case of the AKP (Routledge, 2010); and M. Hakan

Yavuz, Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey (Cambridge University Press, 2009). Also see Michael

M. Gunter and M. Hakan Yavuz, “Turkish Paradox: Progressive Islamists versus Reactionary Secularists,”

Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies 16 (Fall 2007): 289-301.

6 Cited in “Gul: Kurdish Problem Is the Most Important Problem of Turkey,” Today’s Zaman, May 11, 2009,

7 Cited in Today’s Zaman, August 12, 2009. Also see Marlies Casier, Joost Jongerden, and Nic Walker, “Fruitless

Attempts? The Kurdish Initiative and Containment of the Kurdish Movement in Turkey,” New Perspectives

on Turkey, no. 44 (Spring 2011): 103-127.

8 Author’s contacts with Kurdish sources in Europe and the Middle East. Also see Cengiz Candar, “The Kurdish

Question: The Reasons and Fortunes of the ‘Opening,’” Insight Turkey 11 (Fall 2009): 13-19.

9 Hurriyet, issues of November 18, 2009; December 2, 2009; December 9, 2009; and December 14, 2009;

as cited in Menderes Cinar, “The Militarization of Secular Opposition in Turkey,” Insight Turkey 12 (Spring

2010): 119. Also see E. Fuat Keyman, “The CHP and the ‘Democratic Opening’: Reactions to AK Party’s

Electoral Hegemony,” Insight Turkey 12 (Spring 2010): 91-108.

10 Odul Celep, “Turkey’s Radical Right and the Kurdish Issue: The MHP’s Reaction to the ‘Democratic

Opening,’” Insight Turkey 12 (Spring 2010): 136.

11 Rusen Cakir, “Kurdish Political Movement and the ‘Democratic Opening,’” Insight Turkey 12 (Spring

2010): 185.

12 Actually, despite the government’s Kurdish Opening, arrests of Kurdish politicians and notables associated

with the Koma Civaken Kurdistan (KCK), or Kurdistan Communities Union, an umbrella PKK organization

supposedly acting as the urban arm of the PKK, had been occurring since April 14, 2009, in apparent

retaliation for the DTP local election victories at the end of March 2009. These DTP gains were largely at the

expense of the AKP.

13 For further background, see Marlies Casier, Andy Hilton, and Joost Jongerden, “‘Road Maps’ and Roadblocks

in Turkey’s Southeast,” Middle East Report Online, October 30, 2009,

mero103009. The reference to not even a mouse was made by now banned DTP leader Ahmet Turk. Ibid., 6.

14 “Resolution of the Tenth General Assembly Meeting of the Kurdistan National Congress KNK,” (Brussels,

Belgium, May 24, 2010).

15 Ross Wilson, “Turkish Election: An AKP Victory with Limits,” New Atlanticist: Policy and Analysis Blog,

June 13, 2011.

16 “Kurds Make Big Gains in Turkish Election,” Today’s Zaman, June 13, 2011, http://www.todayszaman.


17 Lale Kemal, “Turkey’s Paradigm Shift on Kurdish Question and KCK Trial,” Today’s Zaman, October 21,

2010, which refers to “state contacts with the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, on supposedly

broader issues,” http:/// ;

and Hemin Khoshnaw, “Mediator Confirms Turkey Is Negotiating with Ocalan,” Rudaw, August 10, 2011, . More recently, see Hemin Khoshnaw, “North Kurdistan

(Turkey): Secret Talks Reported between Turkey and Imprisoned PKK Leader,” Rudaw, July 11, 2012, . This latter article states that “the English are mediating between the PKK and MIT [Turkish National Intelligence Organization],” and also refers

to the intermediary roles of Leyla Zana (see below) and Ilhami Isik (Balikci).

18 For background, see Jake Hess, “The AKP’s ‘New Kurdish Strategy’ Is Nothing of the Sort: An Interview

with Selahattin Demirtas [co-president of the BDP],” Middle East Research and Information Project, May 2,

2012, .

19 See, for example, Abdullah Ocalan, Declaration on the Democratic Solution of the Kurdish Question

(Mesopotamian Publishers, 1999).

20 Abdullah Ocalan, Prison Writings: The PKK and the Kurdish Question in the 21st Century, trans. and edited

by Klaus Happel (Transmedia Publishing Ltd., 2011); and Abdullah Ocalan, Prison Writings III: The Road

Map to Negotiations, trans. Havin Guneser (International Initiative Edition, 2012). Also see Emre Uslu,

“PKK’s Strategy and the European Charter of Local Self-Government,” Today’s Zaman, June 28. 2010, http://

21 Ayse Karabat, “Kurds Expect Gul’s Diyarbakir Visit to Ease Recent Tension,” Today’s Zaman, December

29, 2010,

22 Robert Tait, “Turkey’s Military Strikes Could Herald Closure for Kurdish Opening,” RFE/RL, August 24,


23 “Turkey Prepares for Ground Assault on Kurdish Rebels in Iraq,” Deutsche Welle, August 24, 2011, http://,,15342116,00.html. The PKK killed nearly 40 Turkish soldiers beginning in

July 2011, claiming its attacks were in retaliation for earlier government special forces operations that had

killed more than 20 rebels.

24 Suzan Fraser, “Turkey Says It Killed 100 Kurdish Rebels in Iraq,” Associated Press, August 23, 2011,

25 Emre Uslu, “The Daglica Attack: What Does It Tell Us?,” Today’s Zaman, June 20, 2012, .

26 The following discussion and citations are taken from Howard Eissenstat, “A War on Dissent in Turkey,”

Human Right Now, November 4, 2011, Http://

27 “Leyla Zana Stands by Erdoğan Remarks in Spite of BDP Reaction,” Today’s Zaman, June 15, 2012, http:// On June 30, 2012 she actually met with the Turkish prime minister,

an event that caused bitter debate within in the Kurdish community, but to this author seemed a positive step.

“Zana Reveals Details of Erdoğan Meeting,” Hurriyet Daily News, July 1, 2012, .

28 “Zana Reveals Details of Erdoğan Meeting,” Hurriyet Daily News, July 1, 2012, .

29 “Turkey: Arrests Expose Flawed Justice System,” Human Rights Watch, November 1, 2011, .

30 For background, see Michael M. Gunter, “Turkey: The Politics of a New Democratic Constitution,” Middle East Policy 19 (Spring 2012): 119-25.

31 “Turkey: Arrests Expose Flawed Justice System,” Human Rights Watch. Meral Danis Bestas, the current vice-chair of the BDP, told me on May 16, 2012, when I spoke with her through a translator in London, that more than 6,000 had been detained by the Turkish authorities.

32 This and the following data were garnered from Ahmet Donmez and Aydin Albayrak, “Government to Put Together a New Roadmap on Kurdish Issue,” Today’s Zaman, October 22, 2012, http://www.mesop .

33 This and the following citation as well at the related discussion are taken from Thomas Seibert, “Erdoğan Calls for Unity between Turks and Kurds,” The National, October 24, 2012,

34 Murat Yetkin, “A Rare Chance in the Kurdish Problem,” Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey), January 7, 2013, .

35 Dan Bilefsky and Alan Cowell, “3 Kurds Are Killed in Paris in Locked-Door Mystery,” New York Times,

January 10, 2013. As of this writing (March 1, 2013), the Parisian police had a suspect under arrest, but it still

was not clear if he was guilty and, if so, what his motives were. For further details, see Michael M. Gunter,

“Murder in Paris: Parsing the Murder of Female PKK Leader,” Militant Leadership Monitor 4 (January 2013): 12-13.

36 “100 PKK Militants to Lay Down Arms: Report,” Hurriyet Daily News, January 29, 2013, http://www.hurriyetdailynews . com/100-pkk-militants; and “PKK: Disarmament & Ceasefire in February?” Hurriyet Daily

News, January 29, 2013, .

37 The following analysis is largely based on “PKK Leader’s Letter to Kandil Reaches Northern Iraq: Report,”

Hurriyet Daily News, February 28, 2013, http://www/ ; and Ayla Jean Yackley, “Kurdish Rebel Leader Ocalan Airs Frustrations in Turkey Peace Process,” Reuters, March 1,

2013, http;//

38 “Turkey’s Erdoğan Calls for More Support for Peace Move,” Today’s Zaman, February 26, 2013, http://’s-Erdoğan.

39 “Leak of Imrali Record Sparks Controversy over Its Source,” Hurriyet Daily News, February 29 [sic],

2013, .

40 Hakan Fidan became the head of the MIT in May 2010. He is in his mid-40s and has had a considerable amount of experience in the military, intelligence, and foreign policy fields. Most recently he was also the head of the Turkish Development and Cooperation Agency (TIKA) which is tasked with implementing development cooperation towards poverty eradication and sustainable development abroad. His undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland University College was in management and political science.

Subsequently he earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Bilkent University in Ankara. His doctoral dissertation was entitled, “The Role of Information Technologies in Verifying International Agreements in the Age of Information.”

41 Cited in Ian Traynor and Constanze Letsch, “Locked in a Fateful Embrace: Turkey’s PM and His Kurdish Prisoner,” The Guardian, March 1, 2013, .

42 The following data were taken from Ian Traynor, “Turks and Kurds Look to Good Friday Accords as Template for Peace,” The Guardian, March 1, 2013, .

43 This and the following citation were gleaned from Ayhan Simsek, “EU Voices Pro Peace Talks. . . ,” for SES Turkiye, February 14, 2013, .

44 Kadri Gursel, “Ocalan Negotiations Impact/Future of Turkish Presidency,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, March 1, 2013, ttp:// .

45 Cited in Traynor, “Locked in a Fateful Embrace.”

46 Cited in Yackley, “Kurdish Rebel Leader Ocalan Airs Frustrations in Turkey Peace Process.”

47 In recognition of this development, the mainline U.S. weekly magazine Time, in its issue of April 29/May 6, 2013, named the previously obscure Ocalan as one of “the 100 most influential people in the world” and called him a “voice for peace.” Previously, such praise would have been inconceivable.