As a result of the killings both in Ankara and Siirt last week, the PKK has received very harsh criticism and reaction from the Turks and the Kurds. A group of Kurdish activists started a campaign and called on the PKK “to not kill on my behalf.”
This indicates that the PKK is losing its moral high ground among the Kurds, who are denouncing the violence that is being directed at civilians. Even among the ranks of the BDP strong criticism has been voiced pointing out that even in times of war there are moral limits not to kill civilians.
It is therefore hard to understand the rationale and objective behind this new wave of terror. From an optimistic point of view one could think the PKK is trying to put pressure on the government by using such violent acts in order to force it to accept a negotiated settlement. But we know that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government is engaged with both Abdullah Öcalan in prison and the PKK’s other leaders to facilitate a solution. The leaked tape recordings of a dialogue between the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the PKK shows that even at time when the Kurdish opening seemed publicly abandoned by the government, in practice, the same government was trying to negotiate with Öcalan and the PKK. Therefore, it is hard to question the government’s willingness to address the Kurdish question and even engage with the PKK for this matter.
We also know that negotiations with Öcalan continued right into the summer as Öcalan declared substantial progress in the talks with the state. What bothers many observers is that the PKK’s attacks were intensified following a message from Öcalan, where he claimed to have reached an agreement with the state and that there was no need to continue the war.
This gives rise to speculation that it is not the state but the PKK that is turning away from a negotiated solution. If this is not true for the entire PKK, there are at least some radical elements within the organization that may not approve the peace process conducted by Öcalan. Instead, by intensifying violence they could be trying to convey a message that the counterpart of the state for negotiation is not Öcalan, but the warlords who effectively control the PKK on the ground. This takes us to a vicious circle. It took decades for the state to talk with Öcalan for peace and settlement, now if it appears that Öcalan is not the right person to speak with because he is not in control of the PKK then there could be no one on the table to talk to.
Anyway, it is a fact that the PKK can survive as a terrorist organization without Öcalan, but it cannot enjoy social and political support among the Kurds. So, Öcalan may not be in total control of the PKK, but the PKK warlords cannot survive without Öcalan’s blessing. If they, both Öcalan and his warlords, want peace and want to exist without violence they should stop wrestling with each other by killing innocent people, which has turned into a way of showing muscle, not only to the state but also to each other.
The PKK has come to a crossroads. While using violence can never be justified, the terrorist organization has even expanded the use of violence against the civilians. This is self-defeating, irrational and inhuman. This should be stopped at once.
Despite the confusion over the objectives, rationale and actors behind the recent PKK violence I’m still keeping my hopes high. The rising violence may be heralding that peace is ever closer. Before a full-scale peace talk, both sides are trying to raise the stakes and signal that the current state of violence is not sustainable, affordable or favorable for either side.