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However, Turkey continued to dismiss PKK offers to negotiate and demanded what amounted to a total surrender. By the summer of , violence had begun again and gradually escalated so that by there were more deaths from the fighting than at any time since the late s. Gul declared that "the biggest problem of Turkey is the Kurdish question" and that "there is an opportunity [to solve it] and it should not be missed.

Insight Turkey Volume 14 Number 2 - Spring 2012

What happened? The main purpose of this article is to analyze the initial failure of the Turkish government's Kurdish Opening of and its reopening, which began at the end of 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.

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.

In addition, more than 1, 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. The mountain had not even given birth to a mouse, and the entire Kurdish question seemed to have been set back to square one. In May , the Kurdistan National Congress KNK , an arm of the PKK, charged that, since April , more than 1, politicians, human-rights advocates, writers, artisans and leaders of civil-society organizations had been arrested.

In addition, 4, children had been taken to court and 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 human-rights abuses against the Kurds.

See a Problem?

Although the AKP won practically 50 percent of the popular vote, or seats, 15 in the parliamentary elections on June 12, , 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. Although Ocalan's page roadmap for solving the Kurdish problem was confiscated by Turkish authorities in August and therefore never even submitted, its basic contents are known from testimony at his trial for treason in 19 and from subsequent statements over the years.

Such autonomy and decentralization would be based on guidelines already listed in the European Charter of Local Self-Government adopted in 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.

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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 "struggle.

The Turkish Republic created by Kemal Ataturk in 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 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 throughout 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. 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.

Then, on July 14, , 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, , launched several days of cross-border attacks on reported PKK targets in northern Iraq's Kandil Mountains.

The Turkish government claimed to have killed 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. Violence continued on June 19, , when the PKK attacked Diglica, a Turkish outpost near the Iraqi frontier, and killed eight soldiers, wounding another 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.

Are Iraq and Turkey Models for Democratization? :: Middle East Quarterly

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, , 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 , 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. 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. Finally, there is the way suspects are treated. Virtually all are subject to pre-trial detentions, effectively denying them freedom in the absence of any proof that they have committed a crime. 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 , 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.


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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 , 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.

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.

Indeed, by January , it was clear that the Turkish government had renewed the Kurdish Opening and that tentative negotiations with the imprisoned Ocalan had begun. 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, PKK fighters into Turkish society, and constitutional reforms.

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. Winter Volume 12, Number 1.

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Summer Volume 10, Number 3. Spring Volume 10, Number 2. Winter Volume 10, Number 1. Subscribe Now. Editor's Notes. Editor's Note Summer This issue of Insight Turkey highlights some of the various regional developments around Turkey and discusses various movements of new actors and instruments, crises and progresses, from economy to culture, and how Turkey responds to these changing dilemmas. Fragile stability in the South Caucasus is hugely dependent on the neutrality or so-called With the retreat of liberalism in the Western world and the US withdrawing on many global issues, Economic Power and International Security.

Sonmez Atesoglu.

Article excerpt

International security theories generally identify economic power as the key determinant of Turkey is conducting an increasingly active energy diplomacy and in order to understand the role Cultural diplomacy always links to and often overlaps with soft power and public diplomacy. During its first two terms , AK Party adopted a range of constitutional Over the past fifteen years, nation branding has become a popular subject of study, and a The OSCE has until now been the only security organization which directly participated in the Ali Sevgi.


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