ANKARA,— Iraq’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Massoud Barzani, which has good ties with the ruling party in Turkey, is of the view that a yes-vote in Turkey’s referendum may re-open the door for the peace process between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish state, the party’s representative to Ankara told Rudaw.
Commenting Sunday’s referendum on constitutional reforms that will replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with an executive presidency, Omar Mirani said that Kurds in Turkey should study and compare the current constitution with the amended one to see which one has “benefits” for millions of Kurds in Turkey.
“Regarding us, we as Kurds should look at what are the benefits in the previous constitution and what are the benefits in the current constitution. And based on that we should act,” Mirani told Rudaw. “But if we say no randomly, why should we, for no reason, turn ourselves into the enemy of a government or a state, without even getting any benefits?” Mirani argued, adding that Kurds should find “a reason” to vote either way.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), strongly supported in the southeast but cast by Turkish President Recep Erdogan as an extension of the PKK, opposes the constitutional reform but its ability to campaign has been devastated by a crackdown which has led to the jailing of its leaders, a dozen of its MPs and thousands of its members on charges of PKK links. The state has taken over municipalities which the HDP had hitherto run. The HDP denies direct links to the PKK.
Asked whether there is still a possibility for a return to the peace process which ended in mid-2015 when armed conflict resumed between the PKK and Turkey, Mirani said that that depends on which way the Turkish people vote in the referendum.
“One should never be disappointed, or close all doors. Everything is possible,” he said. “In my view, ‘No’ does not have any benefits that [may make] Turkey to open the doors again. Turkey may become even more complicated. But ‘Yes’ has another possibility, another chance that the doors may open again for negotiation, for peace. And even some parties… can become mediators.”
President Masoud Barzani, who leads the KDP and enjoys good relations with Turkish President Recep Erdogan, has said time and again that he is ready to help with the peace process should both sides decide to go back to the negotiating table.
Asked whether the KDP has been officially working for a renewed peace process, Mirani said no, but added that they are meeting all the time with “our HDP brothers”, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Whichever way the Turkish nation votes, Mirani said they wish that “it ends well.”
Erdogan says Turkey needs a strong presidency to avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past. His critics cite the arrest, dismissal or suspension of more than 100,000 teachers (including 11,500 Kurdish teachers), civil servants, soldiers, judges and journalists since a failed coup last July as evidence of his authoritarian instincts.
Since July 2015, Turkey initiated a controversial military campaign against the PKK in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement. Since the beginning of the campaign, Ankara has imposed several round-the-clock curfews, preventing Kurdish civilians from fleeing regions where the military operations are being conducted.
In March 2017, the Turkish security forces accused by UN of committing serious abuses during operations against Kurdish militants in the nation’s southeast.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the resulting conflict since then.
A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974, and has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.