Kurds split over Zana's remarks on peaceful solution
A recent statement from one of Turkey’s most popular Kurdish politicians, Leyla Zana, that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the only person who can solve the Kurdish issue, followed quickly by a meeting with the prime minister, has drawn mixed reactions from the Kurdish community.

Some hail Zana’s new position as a brave stance against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been the dominating power in Kurdish politics, while others, mainly pro-PKK groups and individuals, believe Zana’s approach excludes the PKK and its affiliated groups, which they say cannot yield a constructive result.

The initial reaction to Zana’s statement that Erdoğan is the key to solving the Kurdish issue came from her closest comrades. The PKK also issued some threatening statements on its website. Some Kurdish politicians against violence extended their support to Zana.

Others are questioning what could possibly have caused Zana, who was supporting armed resistance just six months ago, to make this bold move. In fact, those who follow the Kurdish movement might remember that Zana had made such a move a year ago. Despite her party’s opposition, she praised Kurdish singer Şivan Perwer, who was declared a traitor by the PKK at the time, in a speech she made at a Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) rally in Diyarbakır on March 8 of last year.

Perwer was chastised by the PKK for supporting a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. Zana, who was booed at the rally, said: "Perwer is an asset and a symbol of honor; we have to support him.

Otherwise, it will be me or the BDP leader [receiving threats from the PKK] in the near future.” Despite a reaction and opposition from the terrorist organization, Zana’s initiative was widely welcomed in the region. The Kurds viewed the meeting between Zana and Prime Minister Erdoğan, leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which attracted one out of every two votes in the last general elections, as an important step forward to resolve the problem.

Experts speaking on Zana’s recent move draw attention to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq, noting that Zana extends support to a process seeking a solution that involves Massoud Barzani, the leader of the KRG. Participatory Democracy Party (KADEP) leader and Diyarbakır deputy Şerafettin Elçi, referring to Zana’s remarks, says, "Based on what Barzani has been saying and on my impressions, it could be said that the PKK is ready for a truce, but it expects a step from the state.” Elçi notes that there are multidimensional studies towards the resolution of the problem.

Associate Professor Hüseyin Şeyhanlıoğlu, the head of the department of political science at Dicle University, says the Zana-Erdoğan meeting was significant given the provocations and terrorist acts. Şeyhanlıoğlu, noting that dialogue is the first step to resolving the problem, says that delegation of the problem to external players would be detrimental to the whole process and to the relevant parties.

Kasım Ertaş from Şırnak University says Zana has served as the voice of crying mothers, also noting that her initiative was a big step forward to stop violence and killings and to abort the plans of those who rely on violence to advance their goals. Ertaş highlights that the growing popular support for the meeting offers strong insights and clues for a roadmap to resolve the Kurdish issue, and he also believes that Kurdish intellectuals have a great responsibility at this point.

He states further: "I have been in the region for many years and I have witnessed that the people in the region are tired of violence, and they hope violence and the state of irresolution will end. The reaction of civil society organizations and the people’s condemnation of violence confirm this. It should also be noted that the government’s sincere attitude and its efforts have played a key role in Zana’s initiative. An experienced politician like Zana would not have taken such a bold step if she had not had faith in the prime minister. As in the past, there could be some provocative attempts and moves to undermine this constructive process. The government needs to be alert in the face of such attempts and remain cautious to preserve the current course of events. If this opportunity is used well, I believe this meeting will make a huge contribution to peace.”

Kurdish politician and writer İbrahim Güçlü says the initial statement by Zana created a constructive atmosphere but that her statements in the press conference held in Parliament a day after the meeting with the prime minister showed that she was influenced by the criticism. In her initial statement, she said armed struggle was no longer meaningful, Güçlü said.

He further noted: "She was saying that the AK Party was a strong administration and that the prime minister was a strong leader and that she had faith in him. In addition, she noted that the BDP was unable to engage in politics, that it was not Kurdish in emotion and that it was Kurdish only in the mind. Based on this statement, the public concluded that there was a difference between the views of Zana and the general approach of the PKK. This was why these remarks were welcomed. The demands raised by Zana, unless they hold a special message, are not unique. They are known to the public and have frequently been repeated by the BDP. It would have been meaningful if she had expressed views suggesting that the BDP deputies would rely on a political style that was detached from the PKK and pro-Kurdish politics, while she was expected to say that she would have a clearer approach vis-à-vis the PKK. The meeting was not so meaningful because this did not happen.”

Associate Professor Mustafa Canoruç from Dicle University says the meeting was important for democracy in the country. "In democratic states, the government, opposition parties and even parties not represented in Parliament are involved in the process to deal with such intricate issues. They contribute to the process; they have to do so because they have at least received partial support of the people in the elections and been authorized by the same people to address the problem,” Canoruç says. Noting that people want democracy, brotherhood, peace and freedom in the country, Canoruç underlines that huge progress has been made in this regard in the last decade. "It is now time to replace the language of violence with the language of consensus, brotherhood and peace,” he says. "It is important that the process has started. But the parties should not be expected to have agreement on all dimensions of the issue. However, the initiatives and steps taken should not be overlooked and ignored. Good faith is important in this process. The meeting should be seen as an initiative of peace to stop the spilling of blood. To this end, extreme nationalistic criticism raised by certain circles should not be taken seriously. Otherwise, this will give credit to attempts to block potential future steps to resolve the problem. And this will not be good to the parties.”

Mehmet Emin Aktar, chair of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, says that he is paying attention to the meeting. He views the meeting as a step towards normalization, saying: "As in all problems, we will be able to resolve the Kurdish issue by discussing it. I do not think there is another way to do it. A solution is approaching; those who avoid it will lose. The meeting between the prime minister and Leyla Zana has opened the gate of dialogue that was needed for the resolution of the Kurdish issue. This process should remain alive.”

Who is Leyla Zana?

Leyla Zana is one of the most popular Kurds in Turkey. Her marriage to Mehdi Zana, a leading name of pro-Kurdish politics, at age 14 (1975), served as the start of her political career. Elected a deputy in Diyarbakır in 1991, Zana has become one of the most controversial names in Turkey due to her moves in Parliament. She was imprisoned in 1994 after her mandate as deputy was annulled. Zana was in prison for 10 years. Until 2011, when she was re-elected as a deputy, she had never been critical of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). She had always revered its leader, Abdullah Öcalan; it was even argued that she did not want to run for Parliament, but Öcalan encouraged her to do so. Zana, who has been associated with the PKK and Öcalan, made an unexpected move recently. Following a meeting between Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss the Kurdish issue, Zana took a surprising step. She first said that the prime minister could solve this problem and that everyone should extend him their support, and then she paid him a visit, initiated new period in Turkey.

Last Modified: 2012-07-08 09:51:20
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