Second attempt at the initiative

The first attempt at the initiative did not elicit the desired results. Bringing Abdullah Öcalan into the equation ought to have been a part of the first attempt as this would have been a kind of shortcut.

But in the wake of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attack in Reşadiye as well as the Democratic Society Party's (DTP) announcement that they would "turn to the people" for decisions, it is now clear that there is no "shortcut" to peace.
In essence, what we faced in this first attempt at an initiative was a scene we could refer to as "mâlûmun ilâmı," or the declaration of something we all knew anyway.

The first thing was that it was clear that Öcalan was in a position where he could, if he wanted to, destroy the whole process. But there were no DTP members brave enough to tell Öcalan "no," and so once again, we all saw that in fact the strings controlling the DTP were actually in the hands of İmralı Island.

Were these known factors?

They were known, of course, but it's also clear that the cry of "I am being eliminated" and the panic that it elicited were not expected to come quite so early on in the process. As Interior Minister Beşir Atalay said yesterday, "Yes, terror will be eliminated." And while they told the PKK that "violence is not the way to obtain rights," shutting down the parliamentary leg of the Kurds was not a very well-targeted choice. At the same time, let us remind everyone that those delivering this message to the PKK and those who shut down the DTP are not working through the same mechanisms. (And, in fact, this whole situation has raised some serious questions about the "state project" aspect of the whole initiative.)

As for the point we now find ourselves at, it should show those in charge of planning and implementing the initiative this: It is still early to start expecting the PKK to descend from the mountains and to lay down their weapons. At this stage, the priority should not be on having them descend from the mountains but instead on stopping them from heading off to the mountains in the first place, or at least reducing the numbers of them that do.

It is now absolutely necessary that those who are involved in planning the initiative start to re-evaluate everything. There are two things to be done at this point. The first is that the initiative, despite all that has happened, must go on since it is the right thing to do and since there is no turning back now, either. As it is, the recent PKK violence is just one more sign that the process is the right one.

National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Emre Taner and the other units overseeing the process should understand that it is no longer possible to carry out initiative steps parallel with the PKK's descent from the mountains.

Descent from the mountains no longer a priority

What's worse than all the above is that it now appears that the ongoing initiative will have to be carried out in an atmosphere marked by increasing PKK attacks and more and more attempts at provocation. In other words, the process seems destined to be even more turbulent from here on. With only one-and-a-half years left until elections, we will have to see whether the government is really even prepared to deal with this.

The second thing is that it is absolutely necessary to explain well and clearly to the Turkish public why it is that the road we have embarked upon is the right one and that we might encounter varying amounts of provocation while on this road.

The factor that will carry the initiative process toward real success will be the patience of the Turkish public. This is patience that is really needed from the Turkish public, which, after all, has made it through a full 25 years of provocations. When you dab a wound with medicine, it may hurt at first when you press it. But in the end, the medicine does some good, and you really needed it.

What's more, those who are behind this whole initiative no longer need to walk on eggshells as they did in the first stages of the process. Since the Öcalan factor is no longer an issue, the state doesn't need to speak gently. The public relations aspect of the process is thus going to be easier to manage from here onward.

We need to take advantage of this opportunity.

The whole nation really needs to see and understand just what sort of "game" is being played between the PKK and the state, and how at the end of this game, or at least somewhere at the midway point of this game, the PKK can arrive at a point where it is eliminated. People can only stand the PKK's provocations as long as they see them as part of the struggle as a whole. The people of the nation need to be made to believe that this final bit of patience that they are to show after 25 years of waiting will end in a final result. At this point, too, it should be underscored that the policies of the initiative now put into place are not a "chosen road" of some sort but actually a "necessary direction."

During this struggle as a whole, it appears that it is the patience of the Turks that will define the fate of the initiative. And isn't it really the goal of these provocations to test the limits of that patience?

19 December 2009, Saturday
GÜRKAN ZENGİN