Ankara deals with the Kurdish issue

(Press review – week from August 10 to 14, 2009)

Le Monde and Le Figaro announced it this week, the head of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan is getting ready to publish this Saturday 15 August from the prison island of Imrali, « a roadmap » to conclude a lasting peace between the Turkish government and the Kurds.

The choice of the date is symbolic because as recalled by Guillaume Perrier, special envoy ofLe Monde in the South East of Turkey, the 15 August 1984 the first attacks were launched by the PKK at the same time from Simdinli near the Turkish border with Iraq, and from Eruh situated further west.

Le Monde points out in another article that the movement has abandoned its separatist claims to rely on a recognition of « cultural rights and political autonomy. » The announcement of the historic leader of the PKK was heard by Ankara, a dialogue is gradually emerging.

For its part, Le Figaro said that this year is the anniversary of 25 years of struggle of the PKK. In the southeast of Turkey, supporters of Ocalan’s party are still nostalgic when remembering those years of hopes and sacrifices. But as stated by the mayor of Eruh, Melihan Oktay, « Enough blood has flowed; it is time to find a political answer. » The daily points out however that if the Kurdish people are tired of fighting, its claims remain unchanged.

The Swiss daily Le Temps reported the hopes of Abdullah Demirbas, Mayor of the municipality of Sur in the city center of Diyarbakir: « The current events are positive. Despite numerous difficulties, I think we are moving towards a solution to the Kurdish question. All conditions are met: the people want a solution, the PKK as well as the civil society, our neighbors in the Middle East, the European Union and the United States. This is a historic opportunity in front of us, but for this we need political will.  »

The site of the daily English Hurriyet, pointed out Wednesday the warning of Ahmet Turk, the chairman of the pro-Kurdish DTP moderate (Demokratik Toplum Partisi), about a possible failure of the current process, that could lead to new frustrations.

Le Courrier International reported that Ahmet Turk and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on 5 August, which represents an important fact. The Turkish Prime Minister refuses to dialogue with the DTP as the party would not qualify the PKK as « terrorist ». Le Courrier International highlights another important milestone: Yalcin Akdogan, an Erdogan adviser working for 5 years on the Kurdish question, was present during the interview. To find a solution, Yalcin Akdogan advocates three things: the launch of a process, rather than establishment of a system of laws, Abdullah Ocalan can contribute to the solution but cannot take part in negotiations, proposals « provocative or radical » could make the process fail.

According to Le Monde, however, the policy of Prime Minister Erdogan is not clear.  He merely recognizes the possibility of better understanding in the medium and long term. But if the recognition of cultural rights to Kurdish people seems to be on track, amnesty for PKK fighters are not yet considered. And several thousand Kurdish militants are still hiding in the north-eastern of the Iraqi Kurdistan. Le Monde points out that the operations against « terrorism » continue to be conducted jointly by Ankara and Washington to weaken the guerrillas.

The recently initiated process creates both hopes and fears.

Hurriyet and Le Monde spoke of a meeting between the DTP and TÜSÝAD, the Association of Turkish patrons. Different segments of society are this time integrated into the discussions and will be in the possible solutions. But if the dialogue has begun, few are optimistic about the change in the attitudes.

Thus, in Hurriyet, the editorialist Ertugrul Ozkok raises the question whether a Turkish would once elect a Kurd – that calls itself as such – as President of the Republic. Such change has proved possible in the United States, that 15-20 years after a wave of racism, elected the first African American to the White House. The answer he gives is clear. According to him, in Turkey, the Kurds will continue in the near future to vote for Kurds and the Turks for Turks. According to him, a revolution « as Obama’s » is not close to happen in Turkey and the change is once again postponed.