Several sources state that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will declare a cease-fire during the holy month of Ramadan, effective Aug. 15. This cease-fire will continue through Sept. 12, i.e., the day of the referendum.
But the general expectation is that this cease-fire will continue after Ramadan. Therefore, there are grounds to ask: Why will the PKK declare a cease-fire?
The clues to the answer to this question are hidden in another question: Why did the PKK start a “medium intensity war” in early June? A war is terminated or a cease-fire declared if the war is lost or the reasons for the war are eliminated. The other side may hijack your passenger ship. You tell it to give it back. If it does not, you declare war. Meanwhile, a storm erupts and the ship sinks. Thus, as the cause of war is eliminated, the war ends. There is no loser or winner in the war declared by the PKK. Then, should we assume that the causes of war have been eliminated?
The rationale behind the PKK’s cease-fire gives us hints as to how the course of the Kurdish issue will run in the future.
The power of Kurdish civil society
The PKK is as complicated as the Kurdish issue. Apparently, it comprises conflicting forces and very delicate balances. There are important reasons for the cease-fire attributable to this complex web of balances, but the main and decisive factor on the cease-fire is undoubtedly the power of Kurdish civil society and opinion leaders. With the İskenderun attack, i.e., the war the PKK declared, Kurdish society revolted against this war. It gave a very strong and vibrant reaction. Civil society organizations in Diyarbakır, Batman, Van and Mardin gathered together and called on the PKK to silence its weapons. Despite the PKK’s threats and interventions, these reactions continue with interesting intensity. The PKK’s weapons are not only used to maintain warfare tactics against the Turkish military, but also to exert pressure on Kurdish society. The PKK had to take into consideration these bold reactions which were voiced despite its pressure and revise its war strategy.
There is a sound rationale behind Kurdish society’s strong reaction against the war. It is crystal clear that war does not and will not solve anything. The whole country aspires to wipe the slate clean and live peacefully. In everyday life, violence has come to be perceived as an alien creature that makes everything harder and inextricable. After all the things people have experienced and lost, the PKK cannot persuade the community it is addressing about the reasons for its violence.
Kurds want peace. They want just peace. Violence is being marginalized in the Kurdish community. The material and spiritual gains that peace will bring appeal to everyone. Therefore, the Kurdish community’s strong reaction to violence should be considered the most important reason for why the PKK is declaring a cease-fire.
The “no” campaign the PKK is conducting via the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) against the referendum slated for Sept. 12 is as meaningless and illogical as its war. In the face of the referendum, the PKK is in accord with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which can be considered its polar opposite. The referendum package does not contain any solution that is directly related to the Kurdish issue, but it introduces more advanced legal and democratic standards for the solution of the Kurdish issue.
The Kurds have learned what these standards mean by having to live without them. Judicial arrangements envisaged in the referendum package aim to prevent scandals such as the one we saw in Şemdinli, where military officers from gendarmerie intelligence were caught in the act as they were preparing to bomb a bookstore; they were tried, but not penalized. A prosecutor who prepared the indictment for this incident was removed from the profession. The referendum package’s arrangement concerning the amendment of Article 145 of the Constitution will provide significant opportunities for the resolution of the unresolved murders as well as the trial of military personnel.
The PKK first carried out a “no” campaign and then made a call to boycott the referendum package just to oppose the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). As justification, it claimed that the package cannot solve the Kurdish issue. Kurds closely monitor and know about political developments as they had lived through bitter experiences in the past. They are aware of the fact that saying “no” to the referendum package or boycotting it will perpetuate the Constitution made by subversive generals following the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. Aren’t this Constitution and the law made under this Constitution responsible for exacerbating the Kurdish issue? The law that in an inhumane way prohibited the use of the Kurdish language had been passed under this Constitution. The tortures and murders that happened in Diyarbakır Military Prison No. 5 since Sept. 12, 1980, were the work of those who made this Constitution.
If the constitutional package is rejected on Sept. 12, this result will satisfy most of the drafters of the 1982 Constitution. Why should the Kurds satisfy those who did them the greatest injustice? The question asked by the Kurds in the street is so simple and effective.
PKK and Ergenekon
Another scenario can offer a convincing explanation for the reason why the PKK will declare a cease-fire. This scenario gives us an explanation based on the real motives behind the war the PKK had declared in early June. The PKK declared war in early June in order to meddle with the appointments and promotions that would take place within the military in August. Its aim was to make sure that the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) convenes under the pressure of terrorism against the government and makes certain decisions. The YAŞ meeting has ended; so the cause of war has disappeared. Isn’t it more reasonable to declare a cease-fire instead of waging a purposeless war?
The military always uses terrorism as a justification for maintaining the privileges of the military. The Ergenekon investigation is regarded as a war between the military and the civilian government. The General Staff affords protection to the defendants. The government is trying to ensure that the trial can be maintained in a sound manner. The most important development that will determine the fate of the Ergenekon trial was the YAŞ meeting. It was known that the government would try to purge pro-coup generals in this meeting while the General Staff would protect the accused generals. This is how it happened. Had the military been successful, interventions into the Ergenekon trial would have increased. But the government won and the military lost. The PKK’s terrorism became meaningless.
There is a slew of evidence showing the connection between the PKK and Ergenekon. Beyond this evidence, there is a logical explanation for the close ties between the PKK and Ergenekon. Coup-planning generals need chaos and confusion. And the PKK needs the military rule to unjustly treat Kurds so that it can convince them about the necessity of an armed struggle and thereby maintain its power. In the final analysis, an atmosphere of violence is favorable for both groups.
No other explanation can be offered for the PKK’s call for a boycott of the referendum package. Coup perpetrators, i.e., members and supporters of Ergenekon, and the PKK expect the same result on Sept. 12.
Two obstacles disrupted their plans and caused both Ergenekon supporters and the PKK to fail. The first was, as I stressed above, the bold resistance the Kurdish community and their opinion leaders exhibited. This resistance is also in place against the boycott. The second was that the military has a bad reputation in the eyes of the general public which cannot be recuperated with terrorism escalating. The military is blamed for incompetence in counterterrorism. These accusations include cooperation with the PKK, i.e., treason. For this reason, rising terrorism drains the military’s prestige even more.
As a result, the PKK declared a cease-fire as the real causes of the war have disappeared. Now it can even slacken its boycott of the referendum.
* Published in the Turkey's TODAY'S ZAMAN ON August 14.