A peace group from PKK bases in northern Iraq entered Turkey yesterday (Monday 19 October), in accord with a proposal issued by Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan from his prison cell on Imrali Island. Ocalan said at the weekend that "there is a very serious obstacle in the path of a democratic political solution" and that the peace groups were to "open the way towards a democratic political solution once again."
He added that the groups should "visit the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) and all other responsible bodies in order to explain to them why there is a need for both people to live together and what are the essential prerequisites for this."
The PKK sent two groups of fighters on a similar peace initiative in 1999, but they were arrested and then jailed for belonging to the organisation. A Reuters alert (13.15 Oct 20) indicates that all 34 members of the latest peace group have been released without charge. This has now been confirmed by Kurdish sources.
The Turkish Government has sought to portray the arrival of the peace group as the surrender of a group of fighters, perhaps heralding the mass surrender of the PKK. The international media has colluded in this to a great extent. Press coverage varies from outright misrepresentation to, at best, the manufacture of a fog of unnecessary confusion. The peace group has made its intentions perfectly clear (see their message below).
The group does not see its action as a mark of the success of the Turkish Government's "Kurdish Initiative", as most media analyses suggest. On the contrary, the peace-makers say that their action is a response to "the current halting of the peace initiative."
The requests of the peace group include a call for the construction of a "democratic civil consitution." Turkey is still being governed under the constitution of the 1980 military coup. The Turkish Goverment has so far been unwilling to discuss constitutional change as part of its "Kurdish Initiative." The peace group is also calling for the release of Ocalan's "roadmap" for peace, currently in the hands of the Turkish prosecutor's office.
Speaking at a press conference in advance of the peace group's arrival, Ahment Türk, leader of Turkey's Democratic Society Party (DTP), said "Öcalan wanted the peace groups after he noticed a deadlock in the process. This is an indication of what he can achieve if he is taken as a counterpart [in negotiations]." Türk went on to suggest that military operations should be stopped in order to discuss a solution in a free atmosphere. "If the state takes one step, the PKK will take 10 steps," he said.
The PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States and Turkey. Its fighters are spread through northern Iraq and Turkey. The PKK says that its operations are at the moment limited to self-defence.
Message from the Peace and Democratic Solution Group
To: The Honorable Representatives Of The Government Of The Turkish Republic, its Citizens and Democratic Community
In order to unwind the current halting of the peace initiative in respect of the Kurdish question in Turkey and Turkey’s democratisation process, we the peace group acting on the historical initiative of Mr. Abdullah Ocalan, come to Turkey to contribute to a true basis for peace.
Our decision to contribute to the peace process by going to Turkey in no way relates to us wanting immunity from section 221 of the Turkish penal code. We have used our free will in our decision to partake in this peace group. We do so to firstly assist ceasing the bloodshed between the parties, to put an end to our mothers' crying, and to strengthen the foundations for a peaceful solution. As it is evident from this peace initiative we have taken, we are not the root of the problem but rather the side that wants a peaceful solution. Turkey is currently going through a very important, critical process. After the local elections on the 29th of March of this year, the debate surrounding democratisation within Turkey reached a significant level. The road map for a peaceful solution drafted by our leader Mr. Abdullah Ocalan was prevented from distribution to the wider community. Despite this, the road map has had a positive effect on ongoing debates for a peaceful solution, and together with the constructive announcement by government representatives, has strengthened the possibilities for a peaceful and democratic solution.
The fact that a very wide and diverse community seeks to contribute to the debate (although on a limited basis) has itself opened up the possibilities for a real democratisation of Turkey. Community contribution to the debate will enhance common understanding amongst its people and respect for the rights of its various peoples. The Kurdish Freedom Movement is continuing its unilateral ceasefire, and enduring significant sacrifices. Through these developments and the debate which has resulted, the Turkish public has come to face the plight of the Kurdish people. These developments have brought the democratisation of Turkey and efforts for a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question to the forefront of the debate as real issues. The fact that the problems of the Turkish and Kurdish people cannot be resolved through violence but rather through the process of democratic politics, has now reached firm recognition.
As a peace group, we believe that our initiative will assist the democratisation process by providing a fundamental basis for understanding and creativity. The current developments in Turkey provide possibilities for a genuine solution more than ever available before. A democratic solution to the Kurdish question will provide the basis for democratisation and stability within the region. In order to bring this possibility to life we are hopeful that first and foremostly, the responsible forces and responsible communities approach the process in a sensitive and delicate manner.
Whatever the conditions of the solution may be, democracy will not prevail without a common will. The obstacles provided by nationalist, self-serving, chauvinist groups against the democratisation of Turkey and the democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish question make this explicitly clear. The wide ranging attacks of these groups against the democratisation of Turkey are designed to prevent a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. This constitutes a real threat to the democratic initiative that has been developed and ongoing debates to this end.
In order to overcome these threats to the democratisation process, Mr. Abdullah Ocalan has called upon peace and democratic solution groups to go to Turkey. We are therefore, using our freewill to go to Turkey as peace ambassadors to assist the ongoing process. Another reason for our initiative is to uncover historical subversions in order to strengthen the possibilities of our people living harmoniously together.
Some of us represent the people of Maxmur who are made to live through the heavy consequences of the damaging policies that have resulted in the intractable nature of the Kurdish question. During the 1990ss the Turkish government forces burned down and destroyed our villages. These attacks resulted in us having to migrate from the very lands that we were born, grew up in and struggled to live through unbearable conditions in order to protect ourselves from the falling bombs. Families and loved ones lost their lives as a result of these unjust policies. Likewise many members of our families and loved ones became the victims of extrajudicial killings by the government forces of the time.
To this day we do not know how these people were killed and where their bodies are. Thousands of people were disabled and hundreds were imprisoned and remain imprisoned to this day. As the people of Maxmur, who have been made to live through all of this suffering, there is nobody that wants to live in peace with the freedom of our own identities as much as we do.
Some of us on the other hand, opted to take active part in the Kurdish Freedom Struggle and remained in the mountains for years under immensely difficult conditions in order to protect an honourable identity. This was in the face of an otherwise unsolvable Kurdish question, with inequalities in the living conditions of Kurds and injustices lived by the Kurds. This became our struggle for our existence - for a democratic, equal and freedom based solution.
Every conflict must have its process of dialogue and peaceful solution. Principally and ethically, we are of the opinion that once the problem has been grasped and made opens to public debate, that both sides need to refrain from violence for a peaceful solution through dialogue. We firmly believe that a solution will only come from those who believe and advocate peace. As has been evidenced from conflict around the world, we can also with our unique circumstances, reach a peaceful solution through dialogue.
It is for this reason that we consider our contribution to attempting to overcome the halting of the current process to be critical. With the consciousness of this responsibility for the furtherance of the peace process we have responded to the calls of our leader, and the hopes of peace of our people to create the conditions to be able to live together in freedom and peace. We simply ask that the currently halted process be untangled, in order to reignite the democratic political process of dialogue. Despite similar attempts which have not been successful in the past, we demonstrate the will of the Kurdish people and our leader for a peaceful and democratic solution once again. We believe that all those who feel responsible for a peaceful solution will respect and support our peace initiative. It is as a result of this belief that we are demonstrating this sacrifice as a toll that needs to be paid as a demonstration of our readiness for a peaceful resolution. We believe that Turkish government representatives and those in favour of peace will respond to our initiative with the responsibility it deserves.
We list our requests below as follows in order that our message for peace may find life:
- For the road map drafted by our leader to find its rightful addressees in order that a public debate be initiated.
- For both sides of the conflict to observe ceasefires in order that a democratic and peaceful process to solve the Kurdish question be initiated.
- On the basis of recognition of our Kurdish identity, that guarantee and protection of our identity be provided within the constitution to live freely, equally and together as part of a democratic Turkey.
- To live our mother tongue Kurdish freely: to speak it, learn it, develop it, to live our historic values and culture within our geography in our own mother tongue.
- To be able to name our children in Kurdish and to educate them in Kurdish.
- To live our history, culture, literature and music as the Kurdish populace, and to develop and protect the same.
- To be able to unite with our people as Kurds, and partake in the democratic political process and to freely express ourselves within this process.
- For the villages, towns and the cities of Kurdistan to be free from village guards and fear of violence by governed forces, and to live in security.
- For the democratisation of Turkey, with the construction of a democratic civil constitution.
These requests form the basis with which to find a democratic solution to the Kurdish question. We seek to openly debate and advocate peace in Turkey with all of the democratic community. We are taking these steps in order to take this historical opportunity forward. We believe that our initiative will be successful and on this basis we salute all communities in favour of peace.
- Abdullah Ocalan's proposal, 15 Oct kurdish-info
- Statement from EU Turkey Civic Commission kurdish-info
- Photos of the Qandil Peace Group kurdish-info
- PKK 'surrender' tests Turkey plan BBC
- PKK fighters in 'peace' initiative al Jazeera
- ourney to Peace: How have we come to this point? key background, kurdish-info
- Human Rights in Turkey: One step forward, two steps back (key background) key background