By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 5, no. 17 of the Turkey Analyst)
On August 28, 2012. Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), declared that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had usurped the authority of the Turkish state over an area of 400 square kilometers of the district of Şemdinli, close to the Iraqi border. The claim was exaggerated, in terms of geographical extent and the degree of PKK control. But there is little doubt that in recent months the Turkish security forces have been losing ground on the battlefield. However, even if the military eventually regains the upper hand, in the longer term Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistence on pursuing hard-line policies seems likely only to strengthen the PKK, More critically, the continuing rise in anti-Kurdish racism and ethnic violence suggests that, whatever happens in the PKK insurgency, an even more important war could be lost.
By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 5, no. 9 of the Turkey Analyst)
On April 22, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the center of Diyarbakır, the largest city in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey, for a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth. The event was organized by a coalition of NGOs affiliated with the radical Sunni Islamist organization known in Turkey as Hizbullah (which is unrelated to the Lebanese Shia organization with the same name), which many assumed to have been crippled by the killing of its founder Hüseyin Velioğlu in January 2000. However, Hizbullah’s ability to mobilize such a huge number of people suggests that it has not only recovered but is now stronger than ever. Its ability to combine a strong commitment to conservative Islamic values with an advocacy of Kurdish cultural and political rights looks set to pose a serious challenge not only to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) but also to more secular Kurdish organizations such as the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 5, no. 7 of the Turkey Analyst)
On 21 March 2012, Turkish government officials began briefing trusted journalists on what they described as the new strategy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for solving the country’s long-running Kurdish problem. As more details emerged over the days that followed, it became clear that, far from raising hopes of future success, the AKP’s “new strategy” was more reminiscent of past failures; namely the discredited policies of denial and confrontation that had not only failed to resolve the Kurdish issue but had played a key role in boosting popular support for the violent insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 4, no. 21 of the Turkey Analyst)
On November 1, 2011, a court in Istanbul formally charged 23 suspects with membership of the Union of Communities of Kurdistan (KCK), an umbrella organization controlled by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and ordered that they be imprisoned pending trial. The suspects included Professor Büşra Ersanlı, a respected academic from Istanbul’s Marmara University, and Ragıp Zarakolu, a prominent publisher and human rights activist. The decision to arrest Ersanlı and Zarakolu is another blow to already fading hopes that the AKP government’s new appetite for confrontation will be replaced by a desire to solve the Kurdish problem through dialogue and conciliation.
By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 4, no. 19 of the Turkey Analyst)
On October 1, 2011, 25 deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and five pro-Kurdish independents were formally sworn in as members of the Turkish parliament, abandoning a three month-old boycott of the assembly in protest at the continued imprisonment of another five BDP candidates who had won seats in the June 12, 2011, general election. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had already announced that its priority over the months ahead will be the drafting of a new constitution. The decision by the thirty pro-Kurdish deputies to take up their seats in parliament has raised hopes of a sustained dialogue with the AKP and the possible inclusion in the new constitution of sufficient concessions to solve Turkey’s Kurdish problem and persuade the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to lay down its arms. However, although the presence of the pro-Kurdish deputies in Ankara does create the opportunity for dialogue and a short-term reduction in tensions, there currently appears little prospect of the AKP agreeing to the Kurdish nationalists’ minimum demands.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.