The Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) acting leader, Murat Karayılan, gave an interview to the Turkish press, sharing the organization's view on various issues.
Karayılan’s opinion about the future of the Kurdish problem has triggered a new debate on whether we are on the verge of a possible solution.
Examining the interview process and the substance of the interview gives us reason to believe that the interview was requested by the PKK and not the journalist, Hasan Cemal. There are several reasons why we believe this. Firstly, in the interview, Karayılan states: "We do not have any intention of disseminating the PKK's views. We are optimistic and have hopes for peace. That is why we decided to talk to you." The last part of this sentence indicates that the PKK had decided to talk to the journalist, not that Cemal had decided to request an interview. Secondly, Cemal went to the mountains with another journalist, Namık Durkan, who is known for his well-established connections to PKK circles. A few years ago, Durkan was invited to report on the life of female PKK militants in the Kandil Mountains. This angle of the story leads us to believe that it was the PKK’s request through Durkan to contact Cemal to go to the mountains for the interview. The third reason why we believe the PKK requested the interview is related to where Cemal stands politically. Cemal is a journalist who is sympathetic toward a democratic solution to the Kurdish question, and he has good relations with the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.
For these reasons we believe the interview was requested by the PKK leadership. If, in fact, it was the PKK leadership who invited Cemal for an interview, it means that the PKK has decided to launch a public relations campaign to initiate a debate on negotiations. The pattern of events that were available for a possible peace in 1993 is similar and indicates that the PKK leadership will continue to conduct a public relations campaign in the coming days; an opportunity the civilian authorities should not miss.
When it comes to the substance of the message, Karayılan once again underlined what Abdullah Öcalan requested a few months ago. It was Öcalan who suggested establishing a “truth commission” to establish a bridge between Turkey and the PKK. In this interview, Karayılan reformulated Öcalan’s view: “No-one could defeat the PKK by military means, and the struggle during the last 25 years has proven this point. After ensuring that no-one targets the other side, the next step is to negotiate with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned PKK leader. If Turkey does not want to negotiate with him, the alternative is to negotiate directly with the PKK leadership. Failing that, either the [pro-PKK] Democratic Society Party [(DTP] or a ‘wise man committee,’ composed of respected people, such as İlter Turkmen, the former minister of foreign affairs, could establish a dialog with the state.”(Jamestown’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, May 7).
Karayılan listed the PKK's demands of the ruling government:
"1. Erdoğan's government should not hand the Kurdish problem over to the military. The state should respect us, so that we can remove weapons from this conflict.
2. Turkish military generals have positively changed their view toward the Kurdish question; however, politicians are not leading the process.
3. If the government takes positive steps, we will appreciate this and help the process.
4. Ankara should consider the plight of the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, and 4,000 PKK members who are in prison.
5. A new social contract needs to be established.
6. The government should have empathy toward the PKK.
7. We extended our hand to shake Turkey's hand for peace. The other side should not leave our hands empty. ..." (Milliyet, May 7).
Presenting these demands indicates that the PKK wants Turkey to allow the establishing of new institutions, to ensure that the PKK’s legal network can maintain its dominance over Kurdish identity and guarantee Kurdish identity as separate. Karayılan’s demand for a new contract means that the PKK wants a constitutional guarantee for Kurdish identity. Requesting empathy for the PKK is a way of demanding the recognition of the existence of the organization as a functional network that ensures the future of Kurdish identity. Of course, demanding amnesty for the imprisoned PKK militants and Öcalan is about reinforcing the intellectual capacity of PKK networks to produce a political discourse for the future of a PKK-dominated Kurdish political identity.
* Published in Turkey's TODAY'S ZAMAN on May 12,