The Turkish original of this article was published as
Kürt kentlerinde “özyönetim” ilânı on 15th August 2015.
Yesterday’s [14th August] Özgür Gündem carried the following news report, replete with photographs, on its front page: “The spread of self-government.”
One of the spots under the banner headline said: “The response to the total war concept implemented by the Erdoğan régime has come in the form of a declaration of self-government.”
Their numbers keep increasing. So far the following counties have declared themselves to be self-governing: Silopi, Cizre, Nusaybin, Şırnak, Yüksekova, Bulanık, and Varto. In all these county seats, it was organs calling themselves “Urban Councils” or “People’s Councils” that declared themselves to have decided upon “self-government” in order to “organize our own self-defence against the fascist state” and “to build a free life on that basis.”
The KCK: “Self-government the only option”
Launched in precisely those locations where the PKK/HDP line is the strongest, this “self-government” drive points to a new regional situation.
In an article I wrote in Radikal on 8th August [Savaş ve “Bağımsız Kürdistan” hedefi], I took note of the initial indicators of this development. I also touched upon an Özgür Gündem article by Duran Kalkan of the KCK leadership. Writing in the immediate aftermath of the 7th June elections, under the title of “What should democratic politics do?” this is what Duran Kalkan had to say: “The results of the 7th June general elections have mapped out a greater Kurdestan wihin the borders of Turkey. Many circles are now saying that this means a ‘yes’ by the Kurdish people to democratic autonomy.”
Models of regional government
In that same 8th August article, I also quoted a comment by Gürbüz Özaltınlı addressing this whole situation: “There has been a marked departure from Öcalan’s peace policy. It has become clear that the political cadre that has been leading the [Kurdish] insurgency, and which has sunk deep social roots based on ethnic identity, has never really abandoned its vision of statehood. The progressive breakup of Syria and Iraq, the erosion of existing borders, and the search of global powers for safe grounds on the way to a new map, have all sharpened this cadre’s hunger for regional power. The upshot is that they are using all the political means at their disposal for manipulating society to that end.”
The KCK, for its part, keeps coming up with parallel statements in support of these declarations of “self-government.” Here are a few lines from an Özgür Gündem news item of 13th August 2015: “The Co-chairs of the KCK Executive Council have stated, in support of the declarations of self-government by People’s Councils in Kurdestan, that faced with the AKP government’s insistence on a nation-state, there is no option left for the Kurdish people except self-government.”
The KCK Co-Chairs’ statement concludes with the following sentences: “The Kurdish people have no objective other than developing local democracy, governing themselves, democratizing Turkey on this basis, and enabling all the peoples and social groups of Turkey to achieve a free and democratic life. We are calling the Turkish state and all political forces to respect our people’s political will, to recognize all such democratic formations, and thereby to extricate Turkey from a political impasse and a war situation.”
Will the war “keep going on”?
With debates over a possible coalition versus early elections coming to occupy the last few days’ agenda, these other developments have been somewhat pushed into the background, though they are indicative of a new stage that has to be taken very seriously. They provide crucial hints or clues about the background to the PKK’s actions and the related escalation of armed conflict.
The KCK is calling on the state to “recognize all such democratic formations.” That is how, it says, Turkey can extricate itself from “a political impasse and a war situation.”
As I have repeatedly noted in the past, the Solution Process has arrived at a critical junction. A problem that we had long suspected and tried to grasp has now come to confront Turkey in absolutely naked fashion. The PKK or its derivatives or extensions are aspiring to govern this [Kurdish] region. They have been experimenting with a “territorial” or “cantonal” system in Syria, and they now want to be able to implement it also in Turkey.
Peace versus arms
It might be regarded as the exercise of a political right and liberty for this or that Kurdish political movement to formulate some such demand through legitimate political channels and by using peaceful means and methods. Indeed, amongst various Kurdish political organizations there have long been those who have promoted the notion of an “Independent Kurdestan” as well as that of a [Kurdish] “Federation.”
But the present question goes beyond defending this on a legal basis. When it becomes a matter of an armed organization acting on these lines, altogether a different situation arises. Indeed, in all these towns and cities, it is a grave atmosphere of armed resistance and conflict that now manifests itself. And when the state intervenes to break the back of such resistance, conflict escalates.
Can this whole process result in a complete parting of ways? And what is it likely to cost to the region, to the Kurds, and to Turkey?
On what new basis can the search for a peaceful solution be re-activated?
This is going to be truly a very complicated process.