One of the more unpalatable things about the western world today, is the way mainstream politicians and the media turn into villain’s, people who in the second half of the twentieth century had the temerity to resist the inequality and oppression they faced in countries like Turkey, Ireland, Palestine and Lebanon. This is partially done by the refusal of both politicians and media to place these people and the organizations they belong to in their true historical context. There could not be a better example of this than the way the members of the Kurdistan Workers Party’s (PKK) are currently being portrayed, after the Turkish armed forces sent into northern Iraq two battalions of infantry, backed by air cover to hunt and kill PKK Peshmerga.*
No one expects leading western politicians to condemn their NATO allies the Turkish military, that is not the nature of the beast, but to simply blanket the PKK as psychotic terrorists as the European Union and the western media has done, hardly helps solve the problems of the inequality that the Kurds in Turkey have historically faced. Indeed it is almost implying that the Kurds who live within Turkey are responsible for there own oppression, if only they would break from the PKK and allow the Turkish army to remove it from the equation all would be well for the Turkish Kurds.
The reality of the situation is far more complex, for God did not ask one of his angels to swoop down in the night on the city of Diyarbakir and the surrounding region of Eastern Anatolia, whilst the people were asleep and sprinkle the place with looney dust; and the next morning when they awoke thousand of young Kurds walked into the mountains to become blood thirsty PKK terrorists.
The PKK was founded in 1984 and was able to recruit from the Kurdish working classes and peasantry because as a people they suffered great injustices and oppression; and saw the PKK as the means which would enable them to fight back. The Turkish State refused to recognize their ethnicity to such a degree that in government documents the Kurds were termed ‘mountain people’ and banned all Kurds from using their own language in all Turkish State institutions. Kurdish was banned in the schools, universities and the military and it is only in the last few years that these harsh laws were gradually being removed from the statute book.
Thus for a young Kurd who had experienced a boot on his/her neck, it was perfectly logical, if not patriotic to go into the mountains with the PKK, as they saw no viable means or democratic avenues open to them which would enable them to fight for their rights democratically. It was hard to argue against this fact, as time and again the various incarnations of the main Kurdish political party within Turkey have been closed down by the State, at the instigation of the military and right-wing politicians.
In recent times, change and democratic avenues were beginning to open up and blossom, the current Turkish government looked like it was prepared to go the extra mile in an attempt to bring the Kurds down from the mountain and into the democratic arena. At the last Turkish general election the Kurdish, Democratic Society Party, (DTP) by standing their candidates as independents was able to break through the 10% threshold which has for many years kept them out of the Turkish parliament, in the process gaining twenty-five MPs. Who then regrouped as the DTP’s parliamentary faction.
Most Kurds who live in Turkey, are war weary and welcomed the recent reforms and are willing to recognize and live in peace within the Turkish State, as long as they are given full equality within it; and allowed to express their ethnicity and cultural traditions openly without fear or sanction. The AK Party government in Ankara, who gained a sizable share of the Kurdish vote in the last general election was willing to go down this road, if cautiously, progress was being made.
This did not please many on the Turkish right and those within the military establishment who appear to be caught in a cold war time warp; and still view the Kurds as being in hoc to a communist devil incarnate the PKK. For a host of differing reasons the current crises exploded and brought the whole process to a stop. The Kurds and many on the Turkish left quite correctly understand that it is not enough to remove the contentious anti Kurd legislation, as welcome as that is. The PKK militants must be reintegrated back into Turkish society, after all it was the democratic deficit and misdeeds of the Turkish State which made them go into the mountains in the first place.
An amnesty of sorts has been offered in the past, but most Kurdish militants felt it was not worth the paper it was written on and few members of the PKK were willing to risk their future on it. In any-case to amnesty PKK militants as individuals will not solve the problem. What is needed is for the Turkish State to amnesty all those who are or have been members of the PKK and allow them to return to their homes as full citizens of the Turkish State. Those Kurdish militants who are currently within the Turkish prison system should also be released and allowed to return to their homes. In return for this over time the PKK should stand down and abolish all of it’s Peshmerga units and agree to commit in the future to solely democratic means.
* We are also seeing this in Ireland where almost daily Irish republicans are condemned in the Irish [and British] media for having refused to bend the knee to those who governed the sectarian northern Statelet in the 1960s. In Palestine and Lebanon, Hamas and Hezbullah are besmirched by western politicians, when their only real crimes has been to fight back against Israeli occupation and aggression and support the economically poor.