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Kurdish question : it’s time to take courageous steps

Friday 11 January 2008, by Mehmet Ali Birand

It’s already been said and written so many times, but I’d still like to repeat it once again. The state has gained a psychological advantage over PKK terrorism. Now is the time to show the courage to take important steps. If we continue as we used to, forget all that’s happened and fail to take the required decisions, everything we’ve accomplished will go down the drain.

It hasn’t been easy to reach this point. Let’s not forget that it took us two years of efforts to get Washington to change its attitude. Bogged down in Iraq, the United States was reluctant to deal with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It also refused to hear Turkey’s complaint due to troubles of its own. This led to the instant production of complot theories… a series of ulterior motives were put forward, which
ranged from America’s wish to divide Turkey, to the creation of ’’Great Kurdistan’’ and the incitation of the Iranian Kurds to revolt. No one can say whether these ulterior motives really existed or not. I can say, however, that it isn’t easy to push America into action.

Why has it switched attitudes now, why not last year? Maybe America realised that Turkey had reached the end of its patience and wasn’t going to wait any longer no matter what would happen.Whatever the reason might have been, the U.S. changed its attitude, and that’s what counts. America is difficult to convince. It takes a lot of time and effort to get it to change its policies. However, wheels start turning as soon as the White House made up its mind. However, there’s another very important point to take into account: Whenever Washington takes a step, it wants or expects something in return. Nothing comes for free in international relations. There’s always a bill to pay. The U.S. will sustain its present attitude only as long as Turkey takes steps to alleviate the Kurdish issue and to dissolve the PKK’s support within the country. If Turkey chooses to limit its fight against the PKK terror to air raids into north Iraq, America might one day say "That’s enough.” The Bush administration has shown the amount of importance is attaches to Turkey by taking two steps during the last two months: The first one was to block the alleged Armenian genocide project, and other was to consent to the bombing of Iraq.

Now, Ankara is expected to do something in both areas. It is expected to make some gesture in the Armenian issue, as it is expected to take some steps to demolish the PKK as well as its support in Turkey. Washington was very clear in sending out these messages to Ankara.As a matter of fact, the messages that went back and forth between Erdoğan and the Bush administration have become clearer now: Ankara complied with Washington’s wish to refrain from a major land operation. In return, the U.S. opened north Iraq’s air space, provided intelligence and let Turkey conduct an operation under surveillance. This was the military aspect of the matter. So, what’s in the political package? Looking back at America’s string of policies to this day, it wouldn’t be hard to guess their political expectations. In addition, let’s keep one point in mind: This is our problem, not America’s. Only we can supply the solution. All we need is some political courage and the willingness of all our state institutions to walk in the same direction without trying to trip or upstage each other.

Necessary steps require courage

PKK is at a crossroads in every meaning of the word. It will only take the Turkish republic some courage to break up the PKK or to at lest deal a big blow to its activities. If Turkey chooses the easy way out and limits its action to air raids into north Iraq to the exclusion of all other alternatives, all it will achieve will be to put the PKK back on its feet. That is the crucial crossroads that we’ve arrived at. Our attitude will determine the PKK’s future direction. There are some facts to remember:- PKK will not lay down arms voluntarily, it can’t. At this moment, it’s fighting for its life. It’s doing its utmost to stop its adherents from melting away and to show its power through assassination attempts.

- The PKK may be financed from the outside, but it recruits its fighters from this country.

- Some of our citizens of Kurdish origins can’t or won’t get the PKK out of their heads or their hearts for various reasons.

The way to the ruin and the disbanding of the PKK goes through some sort of amnesty, no matter how we hate the idea or fear the consequent reactions. There’s no doubt that such a step will be very effective in breaking up the organisation. However, it will take political courage to achieve this. It won’t be easy to stand the reactions from the public or to take the possible vote loss. In the meantime we must remember to keep our political options open. Throwing the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) out of Parliament will only serve the PKK’s purposes. We must not fall into that trap. There are two political areas that require state initiative. One will involve food and work, and the other will deal with the daily life.

Concentrated efforts to reduce unemployment within the region will keep people out of the mountains. Families will be able to take care of their children, which will have the effect of cutting off the PKK’s blood supply. In daily life, it’s high time to lift the restrictions brought to broadcast and education in Kurdish. They do nothing but lose the state points in the public’s eyes.These are only some of the measures that Ankara knows about but doesn’t dare to implement. If the political authority plucks up the courage to take these steps and the other institutions (especially the Turkish Armed Forces and the National Intelligence Agency) direct their efforts towards the same target, they’ll be able to destruct the PKK to a great extent. All we need to do is to make up our minds and to start taking these steps accordingly.

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Source : « Turkish Daily News », 4 janvier 2008

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