Thirty-four PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party) members were released after their surrender to Turkish security forces in support of the peace process to resolve the Kurdish issue. Thousands of Kurds in Istanbul, Diyarbakir, on the Habur border gate, and elsewhere rejoiced over the biggest step taken in the history of the 25-year long war in southeast Turkey.
The Kurdish guerillas’ crossing over the Iraqi border into Turkeywas organized by the PKK upon the call of their leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has been imprisoned and in total isolation for 10 years. Ocalan had sent messages through his lawyers that the PKK should send members to Turkey and give themselves up as a gesture of goodwill in response to the government’s steps in starting a peace process.
In order to understand the true meaning of this step, one has to remember the around 40,000 lives lost, the thousands of villages evacuated by force, the hundreds of thousands of people displaced and resettled—jobless, deprived of basic human needs, even sanitary infrastructure—in the impoverished outskirts of cities, and the mothers mourning for their sons and daughters killed in the mountains. One has to visit the Kurdish provinces and see the unbearable signs of all of these. So the enthusiastic demonstrations by masses of Kurds—women on the front lines, as usual—rejoicing this milestone is not a surprise at all.
The critical part of the whole affair was whether the PKK members would be imprisoned or released. Ten years ago, a group that had given themselves up for the same purpose (in an attempt to contribute to a peace process) had been sent directly to prison and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. So, the “peace group’s” release after an interrogation by a public prosecutor raised hopes for real progress towards a peaceful resolution in a land that has witnessed continuous bloodshed and suffering since 1915.
However, in Turkey it is very difficult to be hopeful, knowing that big regressions can follow a tiny step forward. Although the mainstream press seems to support the process, readers’ comments are very discouraging, as most of them are nothing but condemnations of the government for betraying Turkey’s “national interests.”
Let’s see what the coming days have in store for us.