In early 2013, a critical process is unfolding regarding the solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey. The success of this process—that is, the protection of Kurdish people`s collective rights through the making of constitutional and legal amendments—is fundamental to ending the war which has been waged for thirty years in Turkey. These developments in Turkey are not independent from developments taking place in the rest of the Middle East.
A historic process is unfolding regarding the Kurdish problem, which has been left unresolved for the last two hundred years in the Middle East. The Kurdish people, whose geography has been torn into four pieces, and who have been struggling against the oppressive politics of the states of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, are very close to winning their struggle for freedom, equality, and democracy in the Middle East. The Kurdish people`s organized struggle in Rojava under the leadership of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and their participation in the revolutionary process is an important practice from the perspective of the twenty-first century struggle for revolution and socialism. The Kurdish liberation movement has, for the first time, the opportunity to put the "democratic, ecological, gender liberationist" paradigm into practice.
In Turkey, we are living in a period when opportunities for peacefully resolving the war between the state of Turkey and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) are emerging. Turkey’s attempt to repress the rebellion with its politics of securitization has not only failed, but has seen the rebellion grow with each day of popularization. This has led the government to reconsider these policies. The meetings held with Abdullah Öcalan in the beginning of 2013 have inspired a hopeful atmosphere around attempts to resolve the Kurdish question. Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdish people, has undoubtedly played the largest role in the emergence of this positive atmosphere. The solution to the Kurdish question on the basis of liberties—a solution that Öcalan has been attempting to develop one-sidedly since 1993—appears to have been reciprocated by the state for the first time since the late Turgut Özal [former Prime Minister and President of Turkey].
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had previously denied the meetings held in 2008 between Öcalan and the state—known as the Oslo process—as well as the roadmap and protocols that subsequently emerged. Betting once again on the effectiveness of its traditional politics of securitization, in 2009 the AKP broke off meetings and perpetuated a politicide which resulted in the arrest of tens of thousands of Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) politicians under the disguise of KCK [Union of Communities in Kurdistan] operations. Additionally, an intensified politics of isolation targeted Öcalan.
After these developments, the massive reaction of the Kurds to the KCK operations, their Civil Friday actions (which proved the futility of AKP policies), as well as their displays of resistance in public spaces during the outlawed Newroz, have dismantled the state’s politics of oppression. The political landscape today cannot be evaluated independently from this resistance. In particular, the indefinite and irreversible hunger strike resistance demanded freedom for Öcalan, as well as legal defense and education in the native language (of Kurdish). This hunger strike was initiated by incarcerated political prisoners on 12 September 2012 and ended on its sixty-eighth day with a call from Öcalan. It received much support both in Kürdistan and in Turkey. Many intellectuals, writers, artists, and academics—as well as other broad sectors of society—took up the cause of the hunger strike, called on the AKP government to meet the two demands of the hunger strikers. This situation marked a turning point in the popularization of demands for a peaceful resolution, most represented by renewed dialogue and negotiations with Öcalan. The visit by two BDP members of parliament to the Imralı Island to meet with Öcalan on 3 January 2013 is also indicative of this new phase, which was followed by visits from several commissions and additional meetings.
In the context of these discussions, Öcalan recently declared his views on the solution to the Kurdish question. This solution took into consideration the responses, views, and suggestions he had solicited from Qandil (where PKK forces are based in Southern Kürdistan), Europe, and the BDP. Therein, he detailed a three-stage solution. His declaration that "the doors are being opened to a transition from armed struggle to a democratic political process" promised a new era to two million people who had filled up the squares during the Amed (Diyarbakır) Newroz celebrations on 21 March 2013, and millions more watching the Newroz celebrations live at home on their televisions.
This call has been welcomed, first and foremost, by the Kurdish people. It was also celebrated in Turkey, the United States, and countries of the European Union. With his Newroz message, Öcalan called on the peoples of the Middle East and Central Asia to build in common a people`s spring of freedom as well as a democratic modernity that opposes capitalist modernity. He addressed his call for common struggle to all oppressed people, representatives of classes and cultures: from the working class to women, from faith groups to those participating in the ecological movement, to all those who count for nothing in this system. By indicating that ideas, ideology, and democratic politics were the new grounds of struggle, Öcalan initiated a great democratic leap.
Murat Karayılan, Member of the Executive Council of the Union of Kurdish Communities (KCK), responded to this call a few days later during the Newroz celebrations in Bonn, Germany, and a cease-fire was subsequently announced. While demands that the parliament play an active role and that a “commission of the wise” be formed were quite insufficient, the AKP government met them. For the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic, there exist public negotiations [between the Turkish state] and the PKK.
It is true that those who do not support a peaceful resolution are uncomfortable with this process. It is clear that the brutal murder of three revolutionary women in Paris in the wake of negotiations at the Imralı Island on 3 January 2013 was aimed at sabotaging this process. After almost four months, no light has been shed on this massacre. France and Turkey continue to be suspected. It is no secret that there are certain groups, not only in the international arena but also within Turkey, who are irritated by the resolution of the Kurdish question. The leading opposition party, the People’s Republican Party (CHP), and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), take every opportunity to express how they oppose this process that was initiated in order to solve the problem. In this dynamic, the CHP occupies the most unfortunate position. It is readily apparent that the CHP, a party claiming to be social democratic, has not only failed to put forth any initiative that could contribute to the resolution of an issue as fundamental as the Kurdish problem. More so, it has also gone out of its way to block the on-going process. […] Unlike the executives of their party, who draw impenetrable red lines against the Kurdish people’s demands of rights and freedom, however, the grassroots of the CHP supports the resolution of the problem by democratic and peaceful means.
The BDP bears more responsibility in this process than all other parties. While struggling for the constitutional and legal protection of Kurdish people’s rights regarding language, identity, and culture, it has also had to mobilize a struggle for democracy strong enough to address the expectations of diverse groups in Turkey, including workers, laborers, women, those engaged in ecological struggles, and the poor.
To sum up: the future of the peoples of the Middle East is being transformed as the region is going through a process of change. It is unthinkable that Turkey would go through this process unaltered. The precondition for Turkey’s emergence as a democratic country in the Middle East is the constitution of a new law with the Kurdish people living in Kurdistan within Turkey’s borders. The state, inevitably, should take more concrete steps for the healthy development of the process for peace and resolution. The second stage, which consists of the constitutional protection of the collective rights of the Kurdish people—especially [civil] rights and liberties—is the most important step towards the resolution of the problem, along with the consolidation of a democratic political sphere.
For Turkey to manage this process by itself, for there to be no yielding to internal factions who oppose a democratic peaceful resolution, international powers also have a part to play in terms of duties and responsibilities, especially the United States and the European Union. It would be a contribution to the process of peaceful resolution in Turkey if the United States and members of the European Union were to review their “terrorist organizations” list and remove from it the PKK, which has taken strategic steps to transition from armed struggle to democratic struggle in response to the call by the Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan. Today, the role that these international powers have played in the continuation of clashes and the war in Turkey is well known. If powers who have until today played a role in the perpetuation of the deadlock surrounding the Kurdish question in Turkey were to make an effort on the side of a resolution through this on-going process, it would affect not only Turkey and the Kurds living in Turkey, but also the future of the whole Middle East.
[This article was submitted in Turkish and translated into English by Zeynep Oğuz, Evren Savcı, and Ayça Çubukçu.]