Toxic blame game spiralling out of control

Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan has called for party leaders to meet to discuss terrorism, but the opposition parties aren’t biting. Opposition party leaders are adamantly opposed to such a gathering, saying that the office of the Turkish President should convene the meeting to discuss Turkey’s ‘mounting terrorism problem.’

No one will argue that there has been an upsurge in violence in the past few weeks, specifically since 01 June.    The arguments, rather, are centred on the origins of the violence and how to control it.  A toxic blame game is in play threatening to spiral into further uncontrolled violence, taking the country back to the dark days of the 1990s.

So who is saying what about the current situation?

Erdoğan and the AKP

Turkish PM Erdoğan

Erdoğan has a three-tiered approach for laying blame: the EU, the media, and the opposition parties.

He has been lambasting the EU of late for not offering more support in Ankara’s ‘long-running struggle against terrorism,’ saying that EU member states turn a blind eye to PKK activities there.  He wants Europeans to cut PKK financial channels, close down any organisation with PKK affiliations, and stop PKK propaganda.  The last demand is a reference to ROJ-TV, a Kurdish satellite TV station broadcasting from Denmark, long accused by Ankara of being a ‘mouthpiece’ for the PKK.

He blames the media in Turkey as well and was recently quoted as saying, ‘I beg your pardon, but unfortunately the media is intentionally or unintentionally supporting the terrorist organisation in a serious way. I am being this harsh.’

He has singled out the pro-Kurdish BDP in particular for supporting terrorism. During a recent address in the AKP’s meeting in Parliament, Erdoğan accused the BDP of supporting terrorism, saying they were ‘collaborating with the outlawed terror organisation.’  He added that those ‘who are in direct or indirect contact with the PKK are accomplices to murder.’

Despite the recent surge in violence, Beşir Atalay, Turkish Interior Minister, says the government will continue its efforts to advance the Kurdish Opening.  However, he expresses frustration at the lack of support from the US and the KRG to combat the PKK.  He says that PKK camps in the Qandil mountains ‘must be destroyed’ and that the ‘time for action is now.’

Like Erdoğan, Atalay is touchy about the media.  He said the government expects ‘the media to show sensitivity on news reports regarding terrorist acts.’  ‘The press unintentionally contributes to that propaganda.’

The Opposition Parties

Devlet Bahçeli

Firebrand Nationalist Party (MHP) Leader Devlet Bahçeli says he will not meet with the Prime Minister until Erdoğan admits that ‘he made a mistake with the (Kurdish) initiative, he escalated clashes, he aggravated terror and he led to the deaths of soldiers.’

Bahçeli has a laundry list of other demands and pre-conditions.  He wants Erdoğan to:

• clarify his relations with the PKK, the US, and the KRG;
• give up the Kurdish initiative;
• announce his commitment to Turkish identity, and give up dividing the country into pieces;
• say that he will not listen to the US and will not seek shelter in the US after every terrorist attack;

• bring Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani in line, and
• apologise to the citizens of Turkey.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) says that Erdoğan should visit the CHP first before any summit to discuss terrorism, but ‘we are waiting for him to return from his holiday.’  He also says that Erdoğan’s vagueness on the Kurdish initiatives has brought the country to the brink of division.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s recent comment that ‘blood cannot be cleaned with blood,’ meant, he said, ‘that you can’t solve terror on the security front alone. The fight against terror has different dimensions, including economic, social, psychological and cultural aspects.’

He also claimed that one of the most apparent weaknesses in Turkey’s fight against terror was its reliance on foreign intelligence.

Selehattin Demirtaş

BDP leader Selehattin Demirtaş says that Erdoğan’s statements accusing the BDP of ties to terrorism were a kind of ‘call’ for the top court to close the BDP.

Demirtaş is careful to distinguish the state from the current AKP government.  ‘The state is closer to the solution, but it is the AKP that congests the process.’ Even so, he says, the Kurdish Opening didn’t go far enough.

Gültan Kışanak, deputy leader BDP, stated that the AKP’s failure in its Kurdish move has led to the re-emergence of the conflict.

Kışanak said Erdoğan didn’t want to pay a price for the AKP’s Kurdish move, but instead wanted to make supporters of the initiative pay the price.

The BDP deputy leader also criticised Erdoğan for blaming external powers for the recent conflicts in an attempt to escape responsibility for those who have lost their lives recently. ‘The ruling government has so far blamed external powers to veil their failure for problems inside the country,’ Kışanak said.


Sozdar Avesta

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) holds Ankara responsible for the current situation.  Sozdar Avesta, one of the top five commanders of the PKK and the highest-ranking female member, says that instead of developing a peaceful solution, Ankara has ‘unleashed more violence’ and is pursuing a ‘policy of annihilation.’  She said the ‘Turkish government has failed to develop a peaceful solution of the Kurdish issue.’

In a recent interview describing what the military situation might look like in the months ahead, Avesta said ‘It’s going to be very hot.  Guerrilla units across Turkey have been activated. We have started a period where we are going to actively defend ourselves.’  These actions, she added, are a response to Turkish repression.

During that same interview with Avesta, another PKK member said: ‘The Turkish government saw our ceasefire as a sign of weakness and is trying to exploit that. They are preparing a total war.’

Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned leader of the PKK, said peace with Turkey was possible.  He listed several suggestions, including constitutional reform and the abolishment of anti-terror laws.  He foresees these as fundamental to any solution of the Kurdish question and says the AKP is fully responsible. Öcalan has called for a period of no conflict, but warned that if the AKP fails, then special war lobbies in the judiciary, the army, and elsewhere will take over.


Murat Karayılan

The head of the KCK (Kurdistan Democratic Confederation) Executive Council, Murat Karayılan said in an interview with Firat News Agency that the AKP is not sincere in the solution [Kurdish Opening] and is using the stances of the CHP and MHP as an excuse not to take necessary steps to a real solution.  But he feels that the AKP government and the Turkish state have no intention to make peace with the Kurdish people.

He said that the KCK is planning to announce a ‘Democratic Autonomy’ solution.  The Democratic Autonomy is a democratisation of Turkey and means ‘respecting and promoting different cultures rather than subjecting them to assimilation and genocide policies. It is recognising the right to autonomy of different cultures living within the country. It does not mean secession or establishing a new state, but enjoyment of full rights.’

If AKP does not accept democratic autonomy, then the only option left, he added, would be to ‘enter a total war period.’

What next?

Erdoğan has returned from his brief holiday.  Sanity is still on holiday.  Dangerous rhetoric frames the current situation only in terms of security and terrorism and detracts from the issues at hand.  Ordinary Kurdish citizens are left in the dust of political manipulation.

The AKP vows to press on with the Kurdish Opening, but elections are looming. Any push to continue reforms will only strengthen the hard-line opposition.  Pushing too hard will cost the party dearly in the elections.

There seems little chance of bringing the parties together to form any kind of consensus before the elections.  Given the current positions, however, consensus seems all but impossible anyway. Demirtaş, an idealist perhaps, thinks that 2010 will bring a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.  Others seem to be preparing for all-out ethnic conflict. Can the path to more conflict and bloodshed be stopped?  Can anything be done to steer the country towards Demirtaş’ hoped-for scenario?  Anything?


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