Eyes on Turkey, not the PKK


Amidst the many analyses of what changes the withdrawal of PKK will bring, one important issue is drowning in the political game: The plight of the Kurdish people in Turkey.

The impression is that PKK was standing in the way of peace between the Kurds and the Turkish state, and that whenever the PKK crossed the border into the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Turkish government would finally be free to “grant” Kurds their rights.

But the withdrawal of PKK is a distraction from what lies at the core of the problem which is Turkey’s lack of will to acknowledge Kurdish rights and take responsibility for the crimes committed against the Kurdish people in both the recent and distant past.

The withdrawal is regarded an indicator for peace between the Kurds and the Turkish state. Commentators and journalists even talk about “ hope”. But shouldn’t we by now know that the indicator for peace is Turkey’s attitude towards the Kurdish people?
Because while the PKK has been preparing to cross the Turkish borders and do its part to ensure a proper environment for peace, Turkey has continued its persecution of Kurds.

Whoever speaks up against the violation of human rights carried out by the Turkish state is accused of promoting division of the Turkish people, disrupting “national security” and posing a threat to the territorial integrity of Turkey. They get arrested under the anti-terror law so dear to the Turkish state.

Let us take a look at what has been going on in Turkey while everyone’s eyes have been fixed upon the PKK:

A seriously ill Kurdish political prisoner suffering from pancreatic cancer was recommended in a report by the hospital to be released from prison but Turkish authorities kept him incarcerated. He died yesterday.

Just recently a Kurdish teenager was stabbed by supporters of the Turkish party MHP, known for its nationalistic tendencies and description of the Kurdish issue as the “terrorism issue”. The teenager died a few days ago.

A Kurdish political prisoner, suffering from heart and kidney diseases, was tortured and beaten by Turkish prison authorities after he underwent surgery.

A 77-year-old Kurdish mother was at first sentenced to 6 years in prison for aiding and abetting an illegal organisation intentionally and willingly but it was later changed to house arrest. Her crime: sending a photo of herself to her son who joined the PKK in 1993.

At Silivri Prison, 91 Kurdish political prisoners will be punished for taking part in the widescale Kurdish hunger strike that took place last year. The punishment is no visitation, no phone calls, letters, or post cards. For example, one prisoner was punished with ‘17 months with no visitations, 12 days isolation in a cell, and five months where no communications of any kind is allowed.

These are just recent examples of Turkish brutality. We are in the year 2013 and the crimes of Turkey are being highlighted by activists every day, yet Turkey is regarded as an exotic place for tourists, a role model for the Middle East and a bridge between the European Union and the Middle East.

What about the massacres and injustices committed against the Kurdish people in the past that Turkey still has not taken responsibility for nor made any real real effort to investigate?

And what about the harrowing Roboskî massacre in December 2011 where 34 innocent Kurdish boys and men were killed?

This is why I say that our eyes must be on Turkey and not the PKK. Turkey is a state recognised by the world, it is a member of NATO, members of EU are expressing their wish to accept Turkey as a member, even Palestinian leaders, persecuted by the Israeli state, considers Turkey a friend.

A peace process is much more complex than a mere withdrawal of Kurdish fighters. It should have been preceded by real changes within Turkey with regard to Kurdish rights. How can Turkey’s intentions be considered sincere when in the months of the peace talks, not to mention on the day of the withdrawal, Kurds have died in prisons and hospitals because of Turkey’s disregard of Kurds?

The peace process has become sensational when it should be sensible. If focus on the real issue, Kurdish rights in Turkey, is lost and the withdrawal of the PKK is used as a distraction, Turkey will remain uncommitted to a real and sustainable solution to the Kurdish issue. The day is not even over and already the leader of the Turkish opposition party is making sure that everyone’s attention remains directed at the PKK and not the situation in Turkey:

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said the withdrawal of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants from Turkish soil does not mean the end of terrorism, and called on the terrorist group to clearly declare that it disarms itself to give a strong guarantee that it will not resort to violence in the future

He is missing the point: The strong guarantee that must be given is that Turkey will implement and respect not just Kurdish rights but also human rights.

Why does he not instead ask: “The PKK left. Now what is our move to ensure peace?”

But I will bet that the statement by CHP will be repeated by the ruling party and the Turks who do not wish for Kurds to share the same rights.

They will insist on keeping the focus on the PKK who will be outside the Turkish borders which means that Turkey, once again, will ignore what is happening at home and focus on what is happening outside its door.

The next “problem” Turkey will highlight will probably be the “threat” that PKK can pose to Turkey if it joins the Kurdish Defense Force Units, YPG, in Syria as it has claimed before.

I can only hope that journalists, human rights organisations and the rest of the world will keep an eye on Turkey. The peace process is not concluded with the withdrawal of PKK.

It is just beginning.