The Kurdish Summit
Kurdishaspect.com - By Mir Azadi
Recently several news items have appeared in both Turkish and international media about a Kurdish summit to be held in Southern Kurdistan and including all the Kurdish parties from Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. It is underscored that the main issue that will be discussed at this summit is going to be the future common policies of the Kurds which will be implemented due to the changes in the world. Surprisingly, Turkey, which cannot tolerate even a dozen Kurds coming together on the streets to discuss the Kurdish Question or tolerate any kind of protest, is supporting the idea of the summit. In addition to Turkey, the U.S and the EU supports this summit also. With this in mind, it would be too optimistic to think that the call made by the Southern leaders for a summit among all the Kurdish parties will be without a secret agenda. When we take a close look, the call for this summit consists of several traps that will cause the disunity, rather than the unity, of the Kurds.
The idea for the summit was brought by KRG leader Mesut Barzani and will be supervised by him or by someone who he approves. Several parties will join this summit. “The Kurdish political parties’ representatives from Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria will attend this conference. For example, not only DTP but also Sertac Bucak’s HAKPAR and Serafettin Elci’s KADEP will also attend from Turkey. In addition, former Kurdish parliamentarians will be invited to this summit… We think to invite the PKK. They are going to decide by whom they will be represented.” says the KRG’s Turkey envoy Omar Merani.
One may wonder why this idea was voiced now and why voiced by Barzani. There are at least two explanations to these questions, international factors and Turkish domestic politics.
One of the most important decisions the Obama administration had was the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2010. To this date, the Southern leaders have always relied on American existence and support in the region. With the absence of the U.S military presence and its lack of political support, the Kurdish leaders in South Kurdistan know very well that they will be too weak in Iraq’s decision making process and too weak to maintain their private interests. Thus, the Southern leaders are heavily dependent on American support in order to keep their positions.
These last two years proved that Barzani and Talabani are very willing to compromise or sacrifice the general will of all the Kurds for the sake of their private interests and positions. For example, the Kerkuk referendum, which supposed to be held in November 2007, was deferred to December 2007; then, again, it was delayed six months later and should have been held in June 2008. Although this time has already passed, still no referendum has been held, nor have the Southern leaders mentioned any single word about it or pushed for its implementation. The fate of Kerkuk is not only deferred to an unknown date but, yet worse, it is not certain if the referendum will be held at all in the future. Thus, it would be a ridiculous idea to assume that the Southern leaders, who called for the summit, will not impose the will of the powers they rely on.
The U.S. is hoping to use Turkey as the route through which to pull out its troops from Iraq; it needs the consent of Turkey’s ruling party for the use of this route. Previously the U.S. had issues with Turkey when Turkey rejected the American demand for deployment of their troops at the onset of the Iraq War. This time, however, both parties are more sensitive and open to bargaining.
The opportunist Turkish state soon will hold the local elections on March 29, 2009, and these elections have vital importance for the ruling party. The current ruling party, the AKP, had received a remarkable turnout in Kurdish cities from the Kurdish voters in the general election held on July 22, 2007. A major cause for this turnout was the impression the AKP gave that it would solve the Kurdish Question by empty promises.
This success made the AKP to claim that they are not only the true representative of Turks but also of Kurds. This turnout gave it a big card to use against the military, which was the only group that de facto had a say in the Kurdish Question. For years and years, however, their policy left the Kurdish Question unsolvable; thus, the military has maintained its predominant position in Turkish politics to date.
On 5 May, 2007, the AKP chairman, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, called for a secret meeting with the then Chief of the Turkish General Staff Yasar Buyukanit in Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul. Contrary to his previous harsh denunciation against the AKP, Buyukanit suddenly ended his criticism of the AKP; furthermore, he started to support its policies after this meeting. Apparently, Erdogan and Buyukanit arrived at a deal. The policies implemented in the following days revealed the nature of their deal: the AKP would provide all the needs of the military, accept the predominance of the military, and close its eyes to their unlawful activities, including the massacre against the Kurds. In return, the military would keep quiet and allow the AKP to make some changes in the constitution for their hidden agenda, such as laws regarding headscarf, the appointment of pro-AKP governors to the Kurdish regions as well as to key positions in the government.
The AKP’s record is not good in terms of keeping its promises, which its leader made during the campaign. For this reason, in the coming local elections the AKP is trying to get at least the same voter turnout in Kurdish cities by pouring out tons of money, giving away free refrigerators, washing machines, and similar large appliances to the people in cities where it thinks the pro-Kurdish party, DTP is strong.
Erdogan knows very well that if the AKP loses against the pro-Kurdish party in Kurdish cities, their claim of being the representative of the Kurds will have no ground and this, the only link that enabled it to have a coalition with the Turkish military, will collapse. This means in every step the AKP takes, they will face military opposition against their policies afterwards. Given the fact that the AKP has already seriously angered the generals by blackmailing several of them or arresting them for being members of a pro-coup group called Ergenekon, the generals have been waiting for an available time to take their revenge against the AKP. For this reason, the success of the AKP in local elections in Kurdish cities has vital importance in its relationship with the military.
To sum up, on the one hand, the AKP fears the collapse of the coalition with the military; that is why it is giving tons of money to buy Kurdish votes. On the other hand, it uses Turkey’s territory as a bargaining chip against the U.S. in the process of the removal of its troops from Iraq. In addition to the AKP’s covert official relationship with the Southern leaders, it asks the U.S. to pressure the Southern leaders to take steps in ways that favor Turkey in the Kurdish Question. That is why the call for the summit comes from the Southern leaders. That is why Turkey and the US support this idea.
Now let’s come to the link between the Turkish local elections and the Kurdish summit. In different interviews, both Barzani and Talabani wanted the northern Kurds to vote for the AKP. Now wait a minute! The AKP is the party which cooperated with the military and let them bomb not only the Kurdish cities in Turkey, but also the villages of Southern Kurdistan. It is the party that passed the law for cross-border operations against the PKK in Southern Kurdistan. Isn’t Erdogan the one who ordered the murder of all Kurds during the Amed Serhildan by saying, “The police forces will shoot everyone, no matter children or women!” Regarding the Semdinli incident, wasn’t he the one who previously said “We will investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice, no matter where and with whom it ends.” but he later took no steps? Worse yet, wasn’t he the one who ordered the Interior Ministry to ban the state prosecutor, Ferhat Sarikaya from the practice of law? This would be the same Ferhat Sarikaya, who wrote the Semdinli indictment that mentioned Chief of General Staff Buyukanit as accountable for the incident. Then how come the Southern leaders, who claim to be Kurds, are asking the Kurds in Turkey to vote for their enemy? What kind of leader would allow a foreign country to come and bomb their territory? Let me remind to the ones who are wont to forget that in a conflict with Barzani, wasn’t Talabani the one who left his wife in Iraq in the hands of his then enemy and escaped to Iran? Wasn’t Barzani the one who kidnapped Talabani’s wife?
Now, let’s wait a minute and think about the call of these leaders for a summit to determine the national policies of all Kurds in all four parts of Kurdistan. Imagine two leaders, one who sacrifices his wife for the sake of his political position and the other who kidnaps a woman in order to deter his rival. Imagine two leaders who ask their people to vote for their enemies. What kind of leaders are these? To me, they seem like mafia leaders rather than political leaders. Now these two so-called leaders will hold a summit among all the Kurdish parties in Kurdistan and discuss the policies that should be implemented for future? Who will believe in them and their proposals? How sincere are their intentions? Can Barzani tell us what kind of plans or policies he has for Southern Kurdistan for the next six months? Indeed does he have any plan? How does he think to cope with the poverty of the Kurds in the South? What kind of investment and development plans does he have? Let me tell you the answer: NONE. A normal leader serves his people but both Barzani and Talabani see that their people serve them. They live in palaces and in luxury; where as the average Kurds makes their living through the aid provided by United Nations. So the leaders who do not have any single plan to enhance the living standards of their own people within their borders are claiming that they can find permanent solutions for the Kurdish Question which exists at least in four parts of Kurdistan. How credible are they?
In fact, although the summit was brought up as a platform to discuss national policies of the all Kurds, the true aim is to marginalize or disarm the PKK. Several KRG officials referred the summit as “the summit of disarming the PKK”. Let’s be clear here! Of course, as a Kurd, for a long time I wanted the armed clashes between the PKK and the Turkish military come to an end; however, the disarmament of the PKK must be simultaneously implemented by a general amnesty for all PKK members; a brand new constitution must be written and based on true democratic criteria; the political and cultural rights of the Kurdish people must be explicitly stated in this new Turkish constitution; and, finally, regional political administrations must be empowered and the right to elect governors must be granted. These are the basic principles of a normal democratic state.
Another clarification: On different occasions I have stressed the necessity of an international congress among all the Kurds from all parts of the Kurdistan. Such a congress, however, requires all attending parties to possess only one aim: the general will of the entire Kurdish people. The summit that the Southern leaders call, however, lacks the sincerity in that sense. As I mentioned above, a leader who champions his enemy will not suggest permanent solutions that are good for Kurds because they will bring the demands of the powers they are dependent on, be it Turkey or the U.S., to stay in power and seek their private interests.
Recently a couple of incidents occurred in a sequence that gives clues about the summit. Let’s briefly go through them.
This week, Talabani attended a conference in Ankara. As an answer to a journalist’s question regarding the coming summit, he explicitly said that they will call the PKK for disarmament and if it does not obey this call, they, the PKK, will be isolated. In other words, he is repeating the Turkish state’s rhetoric: “You will either obey my rules or else!”
Last week Turkish president Abdullah Gul, prior to his flight to Iran, said that soon there will be good news about Kurdish Question.
Again, last week Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said that there will be partial constitutional changes and he juxtaposed some of them, none of which were a remedy to the Kurdish demands.
Two weeks ago the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made a visit to Turkey. After stressing that the PKK is the mutual enemy of Turkey and the U.S.---a position identical to the position of the Bush administration--she repeated a solution based on the cooperation of Turkey with southern leaders to annihilate the PKK.
By these statements, in the last four weeks alone, we see the cooperation of the powers who do not want the PKK’s presence in the region. Apparently, the Turkish state, the Southern leaders, and the U.S. have agreed on a plan to disarm the PKK on their terms. They are dictating this plan to the desperate Southern leaders to pressure the PKK through the summit.
The imposition of the plan through the Southern leaders is very important. Rather than seeking a permanent solution for the Kurdish Question, the incidents that have occurred in these last four weeks indicate that the Southern leaders will impose the framework approved by the Turkish state and the U.S.
After the summit, the Turkish state will take some show-offish steps, like they did by opening a Kurdish TV channel earlier. This will be the “good news” that Abdullah Gul has spoken of. Turkey will carefully ignore and avoid the permanent solutions offered by any Kurdish party, including the PKK, and will tell the whole world that Turkey is taking steps toward solving the Kurdish Question by undertaking the demands voiced by all the Kurds in the Kurdish summit but that the PKK is still conducting its “terrorist” activities. In that sense, Turkey sees the Southern leaders as a tool to isolate or marginalize the PKK and disguise its legitimacy. To put it simply, it is the same old “good Kurd, bad Kurd” policy. The only change, though, is that yesterday’s “bad boys”, Talabani and Barzani, are convinced that they are the “good boys” of Turkey and the U.S.
The disarmament of the PKK is Turkey’s internal problem. If Turkey were sincere about solving this problem, there are Kurdish representatives in its parliament who can voice their peoples’ demands and share their solution plans with the Turkish government. In fact, the DTP presented their solutions to the Turkish parliament and was treated as terrorists for the solutions they voiced. The Turkish state is not sincere in solving the Kurdish Question. Seeking a so called solution through the Southern leaders is Turkey’s way of closing its eyes to the demands of the Kurds within its border. It still tries to deceive its Kurdish citizens through false solutions, such as the opening of a state-run Kurdish TV. Yet it continues with an investigation of the DTP parliamentary leader for speaking Kurdish in the parliament. Through these means, the Turkish state is only worsening the problem.
Southern leaders, you can turn this summit into a very fruitful platform for all Kurds by bringing unbiased suggestions, without hidden agendas, and by acquiring a little courage. You can call Turkey to take concrete, permanent, and sincere steps toward a solution to the Kurdish Question. You can juxtapose the PKK’s unilateral cease-fires, mention its leader’s statements for a democratic solution and how sincere and ready he is for a permanent solution. Finally you must tell Turkish officials that they should contact and negotiate with DTP representatives for solving the Kurdish Question, because they are the ones who the Kurds in the North voted for, not Barzani or Talabani.