Turkish MP: “Turkey prefers war with Kurds instead of peace”

2013-01-02  – Ararat News-  “Turkey prefers war with Kurds instead of peace”

The Turkish MP Ertugrul Kurkcu believes that Turkey is not ready for a long term solution of the Kurdish question in country. He says that “Turkey prefers war with Kurds instead of peace”. But there are not winners of the war since 1984. Journalist Lorin Sarkisian talked to the Turkish veteran politician Kurkcu.

Lorin Sarkisian: Mr. Kürkcü, as Member of the Parliament in Turkey you are participating actively in the political life and you have the chance to observe closely the ongoing processes. Why do you think the Turkish-Kurdish war continue, despite all the talks for peace and solution of the Kurdish question?

Ertuğrul Kürkcü: The Turkish state believes that it is more advantageous to continue the war than to strive for peace, because they predict that in the long term they will be able to liquidate the Kurdish demands and the losses will be compensated. The Kurds urge for an autonomous Kurdistan with self-rule and a local government within the present borders of Turkey. But this is a nightmare for the Turkish state. The Turkish government is very disturbed with the vision that Kurds will control a considerable part of the territory, which is geopolitically very strategic, because it is rich in natural resources, as well as energy channels, oil pipeline routes and water reserves, dams, irrigation systems etc. War is more controllable they believe. But if Turkey agrees to have peace under the Kurdish terms, they are afraid that they will lose control over the strategic Kurdish land and it will politically and materially cost them much more than the current war does. The West is also satisfied with this situation and provide support to Turkey’s counter-insurgency efforts as they see Turkey, a NATO member country, as a strategic partner in controlling the region politically and militarily and are unhappy with the Kurdish liberation movement’s dissidence against “capitalist modernity”. Turkey receives a lot of US military aid spends on weapon systems and air force modernization.

Lorin Sarkisian: But is the Kurdish military struggle the real threat for Turkey ?

Ertuğrul Kürkcü: No, it is mutually admitted by both sides that neither the PKK could defeat the Turkish army militarily nor the Turkish military could annihilate the PKK’s guerrilla forces. The real problem for the Turkish government is indeed the popular upheaval of the Kurds across Turkey. Therefore, Erdogan is aiming at increasing pressure on the civilian elements in the struggle. He is seeking to integrate Kurds within the Turkish civil society through Islamic mechanisms and values-by financing activities, landing money, insuring protection, satisfying demands of parts of the society as long as they integrate with the ruling AKP or with pro-government sects and religious communities, an operation in which the local and central government’s social solidarity services play an important part. Erdogan on the other hand does his best to intimidate the Kurdish legal party BDP, to show that they are not important, that the PKK is the real partner or adversary. If Erdogan really wanted any political solution, he should sit down to settle the matters with the BDP, who has gained the support of nearly 3 million voters, as partner. But he is trying to criminalize and marginalize them, precisely because his hegemony is challenged by the civilian Kurdish movement. Military fighting is effective on the already depopulated countryside, but AKP hegemony is contested in the urban areas. Therefore, in the last three years more than 9.000 Kurdish legal politicians have been arrested.

Lorin Sarkisian: What is the future prospective for possible solution of the Kurdish question?

Ertuğrul Kürkcü: There are two conditions in order to have solution of the Kurdish questions: first, a mutual cease-fire, stopping the armed clashes between both sides. Because as long as the military operations continue, there is no space for rational, cool-headed thinking among the broad sections of the Kurdish and Turkish people. Secondly, there must be a negotiation process, through which the solution will be elaborated by the parties to the conflict around the table. This does not necessarily imply total disarmament and surrender of the PKK. If they do this without any constitutional guarantees, they could fall under a bloody revenge campaign by the security forces as well as massacres against the Kurdish population. Instead both sides should mutually stop the armed fight. There should be general amnesty for the political prisoners. Full disarmament should follow the reconciliation. Negotiations cannot reach to a positive end as long as 9.000 Kurdish and leftist activists remain in prison. The isolation of Ocalan should also be ended. This does not necessarily imply his immediate release. But he should have equal treatment as all the other prisoners. In Turkey, even during the most repressive, fascistic periods of the 70s and 80s, even under military dictatorships, prisoners had right to see their lawyers. I have been in prison from 1972 to 1986, but I could regularly see my lawyers even in the last days of my stay. The isolation of Ocalan is not acceptable. It is a humiliation for the Kurds and the Kurdish movement that their leader is treated like a beast in a cage.

Lorin Sarkisian: But Turkey and PKK leaders had actually many secret channels for dialogue since many years, among them the well know Oslo-channel. Why they failed ?

Ertuğrul Kürkcü: Secret diplomacy does not directly affect the actual war fought in the field. The Turkish government had three aims with the last secret talks during 2008-2011 : to boost optimism among PKK and lead them to passivity, to use time and insure a cease fire period for the last parliamentary elections in 2011. Actually since 2002 when AKP came to power for first time, AKP arranged a truce almost for all the election campaigns. In the last secret talks, they wanted to repeat the same scenario, but this time they could not face the demands of PKK, so they had to give up and refuse the protocols for peace submitted by Ocalan from the Imrali Island.

The other reason for refusal from Turkish side was that the AKP-government needs the support of the army for any sort of reconciliation. The present chief of staff is not an AKP sympathiser, but the army and AKP have a deal. The army and the government have reached an agreement that the army will fully withdraw from the political domain, will not interfere in the political affairs, and the government will provide the Turkish military full authority in continuing the war with the Kurds…

Lorin Sarkisian: Do you expect that the international community, especially the West represented by USA and EU can also play role in the solution of the Kurdish case?

Ertuğrul Kürkcü: If everything remains in Turkey as it is, if Turkey keeps the backing of the West and NATO in its handling of the Kurdish question as an issue of anti-terrorism, Ankara will not make a compromise with the Kurds. So the low-intensity warfare will continue and bloodshed will continue incessantly.

USA supports the Turkish government in every step they do to crash the Kurdish movement. US is the last in the row to do something for a peaceful end. But there are also some major problems with EU. Since 2002 until last year, EU also gave to Erdogan unlimited support, because EU was obsessed with the domination of the military in Turkey and supported Erdogan’s attempts to crash the military domination. But Erdogan during his campaign against the army also crashed every sort of opposition in Turkey. EU has to push Turkey to stick to Erdogan’s promises in 2004 when EU decided to start accession negotiations with Turkey. In 2004, Erdogan promised in the Council of Europe 12 points to improve democracy and reinforce the state of law. But until now he kept only one of these 12-points promises – to establish ombudsmanship. And they appointed for this position one of the judges who condemned the slained Armenian journalist and writer Hrant Dink. EU has to put pressure on Erdogan to keep his promises.

Yet, at the same time, we should keep in mind that the EU played a hypocritical role in Turkey’s EU accession process. It is not only Erdoğan who breached the promises, Germany and France too prevented the progress of the negotiation process under false justifications.  Such policy only reinforces Erdogan’s opposition to democratic values and gives him occasion to declare that the EU is a miserable organisation and he would not listen to their recommendations. EU should do two things: stop preventing the accession process and urge that the Turkish government respect the agreements. For example, Turkey has signed the European Convention for Human Rights, but the right to organize, assembly, and express opinions are being daily violated in Turkey.

Lorin Sarkisian: If you have to analyze the internal situation in Turkey in the last 10 years, can you mention some positive changes and developments?

Ertuğrul Kürkcü: We can say that in the last 10 years there has been some progress in some areas of the political life. The torture of the political prisoners is minimized, but there is an increased violence against ordinary people. The violence in the prisons is not eradicated. The major complains are still for mistreatment, violence and pressure. But the torture during interrogations is minimized. The demonstrations are suppressed by force, people are attacked with pepper gas and clubs. There is almost no freedom for any kind of demonstration particularly in the Kurdish cities. The property rights of the Christian minorities are returned bur the social life is under heavy Islamic pressure and the freedoms are gradually curtailed. For example, during Ramadan in some areas only tourists can drink alcohol, not Turkey’s own inhabitants, which reminds me the dualist Ottoman laws with separate provisions for Christians and Muslims in the civil law.

Media freedom and the justice are also suffering under the present conditions. Around 70 journalists / media workers are in prison today. Big media groups like Dogan Media Group were forced to pay 10 billion EUR fines under controversial conditions, as the government was obsessed with their indirect implications in the political campaigns against their rule.

Turkey also has many thousands of political prisoners. Only the Kurdish political prisoners are around 9000. The right to just trial is heavily violated and they are arrested without concrete evidences. The government had to change the law and to require the judges to give thorough explanation for the reasons of the arrests. But even so, the judges still keep people in prison on the basis of convictions and without any evidences but the charges directed by the police.

Lorin Sarkisian: What are your expectations for the next local, presidential and parliament elections in Turkey and the place of Peace and Democracy Party in the political landscape?

Ertuğrul Kürkcü: If BDP gets 9 % on the local elections in 2014, they can go with their own list to the national elections in 2015. And if they pass the 10 % threshold in 2015, they will have 60 MPs in the Turkish National Parliament, which implies lesser number of chairs for the AKP. The results of the upcoming local elections can change everything. We have established now People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which will become an umbrella election party to comprise the pro-Kurdish BDP and representatives of all the ethnical and religious minorities, as well as dozens of left political parties and groups, labour unions, women associations etc. We will participate together in the elections.

Ertuğrul Kürkcü, born May 5, 1948 in Bursa, is a Turkish socialist, journalist, writer and member of Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Turkish Grand National Assembly.

Kürkcü was an activist of the ’68 movement and one of the founders in 1970 of Turkish People’s Liberation Party-Front (THKP-C). In 1970 he was elected chairman of the Federation of Revolutionary Youth of Turkey (Dev-Genç). In 1972 he was captured and sentenced to death, but two years later after general amnesty, his death sentence was lifted and turned to 30-years in prison. He was released in 1986.

For the parliamentary elections in June 2011 Kürkcü participated as an independent candidate for the province of Mersin. After being elected, he joined the pro-Kurdish BDP. Kürkcü is a member of the Parliamentary Committee of Human Rights and a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.