He had the face of someone who had just left behind a trouble and relaxed, when Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan was talking to journalists surrounding him as he was entering the executive committee meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in Ankara on February 13. Perhaps as a reflection of his (personal and political) mood, he did not use the rear door of his headquarters covered by a small army of bodyguards. On the contrary he proceeded with easy steps, smiled at journalists, waited for them to make their cameras and microphones ready and answered almost all the questions asked; not a very frequent occasion observers would agree.
A day before, he had an important meeting with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin on a new legal amendment plan, the Fourth one. Leaving the meeting, Ergin had said that after a fine tuning of the draft the government could submit it to the Parliament next week, perhaps on Monday. The expectations are high regarding the Fourth. If the definitions for terrorism, terrorist organization and member of a terrorist organization will change than many kept for years in Turkish prisons without being sentenced, still with the status of arrested could be released. Most of them could be alleged members of Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) a popular front organization for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). That could include five elected members of the Parliament from the Kurdish problem focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) which shares the same grassroots with the PKK. When it comes to deputies of Parliament in jail widely popular ones are journalist Mustafa Balbay and surgeon Mehmet Haberal of the main opposition Republican People’s party (CHP). But what is important for the ongoing government process to find a political and peaceful solution to Turkey’s chronic Kurdish problem and release of five BDP deputies (Gülser Yıldırım, Selma Irmak, Faysal Sarıyıldız, İbrahim Ayhan and Kemal Aktaş) could be a step forward.
One has to keep in mind that deputies in jail have been raised many times by the EU bodies during the last year and lately by U.S. officials. So, there could be both domestic and exterior reasons to lead Ergin to say that the Fourth legal package will take Turkey’s excessive pressure off. He added yesterday that there was no direct relation between the Fourth and the Kurdish dialogue process but all indications are in that direction.
Erdoğan himself told reporters yesterday that ‘2 or 3’ more politicians, probably from the BDP again could go to the island prison of İmralı and talk to Abdullah Öcalan, the founding leader of the PKK held there, as a continuation of the process. ‘Either this week or early next week’ Erdoğan said; the timing will almost be simultaneous with the submission of the Fourth to the Parliament. This is good, since politicians are focused on the subject to get it solved more than ever. This could of course speed up and help the writing of a new constitution for Turkey; hopefully a more democratic one.
Yet, there could be one side effect for the release of the KCK suspects. If the Ergenekon or OdaTV suspects, including two CHP deputies for example will not be released like KCK suspects and BDP deputies, the desired ‘social reconciliation’ and ‘inner peace’ atmosphere would not be complete.
Let us now wait and see what will happen after the BDP-İmralı talks and the Fourth legal package.
This article first appeared on Hurriyet Daily News on Feb.14, 2013
(Murat Yetkin is the current editor-in-chief of Hurriyet Daily News and a columnist for Radikal, a Turkish publication. He is a political commentator on Turkish and Middle Eastern affairs and has previously worked for BBC World Service and AFP. He can be found on Twitter: @MuratYetkin2.)