While Kurds have embraced the initiative, most are suspicious of the Turkish government’s true intention. There are concerns that the Turkish political establishment may not act on its promises under the peace process. This emanates partly from the past experiences of Turkish deceit of Kurds in the 1920s and partly from the current Turkish military’s inconsistent measures that are incongruent with the undergoing rapprochement.

This article looks at the viability of the Turkish government’s peace process initiative. The article is divided into three parts. The first part looks at the Kurdish suspicions of the peace process based on the Turkish government’s historical deceit of the Kurds and current inconsistent measures taken under peace process. The second part reflects upon the Kurdish suspicions by highlighting the causal connections that prompted the Turkish government to initiate the peace process. The final part looks at the possible counter measures the Kurds could undertake to avoid vicious consequences.

2. Historical Betrayal

In the aftermath of the First World War, the treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920) promised Kurds a State of their own. Kurdish political elites such as Sharif Pasha and Emin Ali Bedir Khan were drawing and negotiating the boundaries of the promised independent State of Kurdistan which would include large Kurdish areas of current South-East Turkey. Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, would see the circumstances irreversible unless he adopted strong political tactics painted with deep-seated social and religious values that could avoid such a development. He approached the Kurdish tribal and religious leaders alluring them to perceive the treaty of Sèvres as an imperialist plot devised to divide the Turkish and Kurdish brotherhood. He made false representations and promises for a future republic in which Kurds and Turks would possess equal rights and share power. He established a parliament in 1920 giving equal representation to the Kurds.

He continued to caress Kurdish political simplicity until such times he could bury the chances of an independent Kurdistan under the treaty of Sèvres through negotiating the new treaty of Lausanne (24 July 1923). Once the treaty of Lausanne was agreed, he brutally crushed the Kurds and run a campaign of extinguishing Kurdish identity from the newly established State of Turkey. He banned Kurdish culture and language, crushed Kurdish rebellions with iron-fist and killed several thousands of Kurdish civilians.

3. Erdogan’s ‘Peace Process’

Premised on this bitter historical experience, it is therefore not surprising that the Kurds are suspicious of Erdogan’s so called ‘peace process’ initiative arguably aimed at resolving the Kurdish political problem in Turkey. Similar to Ataturk’s initial socio-religious indoctrination, Erdogan has also tried to charm the Kurdish minds by stressing on the Islamic concept of ‘brotherhood’ and collectively. In his several public addresses in Amed (Diyarbakir), Erdogan has emphasised Turkish-Kurdish ‘brotherhood’ and ‘unity’.  He has undertaken to relinquish the Kurdish political and civil rights under the peace process.

However, on the practical grounds, Erdogan’s statements and promises have not yielded any solid results. This is at a time when PKK has nearly completed its obligations under the first phase of the peace plan by declaring ceasefire and withdrawing from Turkey’s territorial boundary. The Turkish government has not responded by showing good faith or taking any major step to commence the second phase of the peace process. This would encompass freeing Kurdish political prisoners and making a series of fundamental legal reforms that address Kurdish political, cultural, social and economic grievances.

On the contrary, the process of restricting Kurdish culture and civil rights is continuing, thousands of Kurdish political activists are still holed in prisons and militarisation of Kurdish region is uninterrupted. Murat Karayilan, the PKK military commander, even voiced his concern that contrary to the peace plan the Turkish government is currently building further military outposts, increasing the number of paramilitary forces and preparing for a large scale war.

This lack of action or progress on the part of Turkish government puts viability of the peace process under question. It further adds to the Kurds existing suspicions about the Erdogan’s intention in initiating the peace process. (http://rudaw.net/english/opinion/13072013)

*Hiwa Zandi is a lawyer, political commentator and Kurdish history researcher. He obtained bachelor of International Relations and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Queensland, Australia. He joined the Supreme Court of Queensland as a lawyer in 2010.  Email: [email protected] 

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