Posted by: hevallo | February 10, 2010

Turkey Must Talk to Kurdish Freedom Movement.

Talking to the enemy

ANKARA — “You don’t make peace with your friends,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the recent London Conference on Afghanistan.

“You have to be willing to engage with your enemies if you expect to create a situation that ends an insurgency.”

Talking to the Taliban has stirred heated debate in Washington. Some US officials find dialogue repugnant. After all, the Taliban harbored al-Qaeda, which is responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and orchestrating a worldwide campaign of terror. Dialogue’s advocates recognize that it is born from practical necessity, not from weakness.

Turkey has become involved in the debate. By calling for engagement with the Taliban in Afghanistan’s reconciliation process, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has invited comparisons with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

According to Dr. Davutoğlu: “Such comparisons are not accurate. Turkey is not coming from a 30-year war like Afghanistan. There is an established state structure where the struggle is within the political system. There is a healthy, functioning political system in Turkey. Those who want to participate in the political system do so in Turkey. Wherever there is dialogue, the sphere of violence shrinks.”

To be sure, Turkey is not a broken, failed state like Afghanistan. Dr. Davutoğlu’s assumptions are worth examining, as Turkey seeks a more perfect union through its Kurdish opening and by considering other strategies to address its PKK problem.

There is no war: Since the PKK launched its insurgency in 1984, more than 40,000 people have died, including thousands of innocent civilians. Turkey’s security operations in the Southeast have cost $300 billion. More than 2,000 villages have been vacated or destroyed. The staggering cost of troops and treasure is a “war” by any definition. The number of casualties by security forces is equivalent to those incurred during the revered War of Independence (1919-1922).

Stable state structures: Turkey’s history is marked by coups and juntas. The military seized power in 1960, 1971 and 1980. It undertook a so-called post-modern coup in 1997 and an “e-coup” in 2007.

Healthy political system: Alleged plots against civilian authority include Operation Sledgehammer. In the planned actions of Sledgehammer, military officers intended to stage attacks in urban areas implicating the PKK and al-Qaeda. In response, they would declare a state of emergency and impose martial law. In the Cage Operation Action Plan, a group of naval officers plotted to murder non-Muslims and then set up conservative Muslim groups to take the blame in order to galvanize international pressure on the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Under the guise of saving secularism, Ergenekon and Turkey’s “deep state” have shown they will stop at nothing to preserve their power, privilege and profit.

Free political participation: The Constitutional Court banned the Refah (Welfare) and the Fazilet (Virtue) parties for being non-secular; it is also taking aim at the AKP. Last December, the court unanimously closed the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), concluding it had become “a focal point for activities that were against the country and the state’s indivisible unity.” Before the DTP, the court banned a succession of other Kurdish parties — the People’s Labor Party (HEP), the Democracy Party (DEP), the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) and the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP). Two months ago, the DTP was replaced by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Will the same fate befall the BDP?

Dialogue: The judiciary targets leading proponents of dialogue about a peaceful resolution to Turkey’s PKK problem. It banned Ahmet Türk and Ms. Aysel Tuğluk, outspoken supporters of non-violence and reconciliation. Article 8 of the Constitution and Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) are used to stifle free speech.

Instead of turning a blind eye to these realities, AKP leaders should reflect on Turkey’s serious problems and consider a range of options to address them. Honest self-criticism would result in a multifaceted strategy. The PKK’s strength is based on public support, not its fighting power. Continued democratization and development are, therefore, essential to draining the swamp of support for the PKK. However, this alone will not bring armed PKK fighters down from the mountains.

Just as the US has learned from its travails in Afghanistan, Turkey should learn from her failed effort to defeat the PKK on the battlefield. There is no hope of disarming the PKK unless you negotiate the terms of its demobilization. Such talks could occur directly or via the DTP’s heir, the BDP, which would be a suitable interlocutor.

Dialogue will be hard. It will bring up difficult issues like amnesty, a bitter pill for Turks to swallow. It would be presumptive to assume the outcome. But given serious challenges, dialogue is integral to a more comprehensive and effective counterterrorism strategy.

*David L. Phillips is director of the Program on Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding at American University. His most recent book is “From Bullets to Ballots: Violent Muslim Movements in Transition.”

Source: Zaman.


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