News / Middle East

Turkish Peace Initiative with Kurds Meets Resistance

Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) congratulate each other after arriving in the Heror area, northeast of Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, May 14, 2013.
Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) congratulate each other after arriving in the Heror area, northeast of Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, May 14, 2013.
Dorian Jones
The Turkish government's initiative to explain its peace moves with an outlawed Kurdish rebel group is facing increasing resistance from Turkish nationalists amid criticism over the handling of the peace process.  

Members of the Turkish government’s "Wise People" initiative are facing growing protests from Turkish nationalists.  

For the last month, groups of well-known academics, media stars and celebrities have been traveling around the country to explain the government's attempt to end fighting with the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK.  But the initiative is becoming a lightning rod for growing unease among Turkish nationalists.

Recently addressing a gathering of tens of thousands of supporters, Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, strongly attacked the peace process, asserting it will lead to an autonomous Kurdish state in Turkey,

He also gave a warning. With the crowd chanting “Tell us to strike and we will strike, tell us to die and we will die,” Bahceli answered back: “Don’t worry, the time will come for that, too.”

For nearly three decades the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, has been fighting the Turkish government for greater minority rights in a conflict that has claimed more than 30,000 lives. But on May 8, the PKK began withdrawing its forces from Turkey as part of a peace process.  The government has yet to reveal what it is prepared to offer the PKK in return.  

Retired general Haldun Solmazturk, who is now an international relations expert, says there is deep suspicion over the peace process.

"PKK will never disarm unless they achieve a greater Kurdistan within Turkey. So an ambiguous understanding is just imposed on the Turkish state - so, in a sense, blackmailing the future of our coming generations. This is very disturbing. Turks are not aware of the final outcome because of the self-censorship imposed on the Turkish media," said Solmazturk.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly attacked a newspaper that reported on documents leaked from the peace talks. And a well-known expert on Kurdish issues and newspaper columnist was fired for his reporting, which was critical of the handling of the peace moves.

Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University, believes that opposition to the peace efforts remains limited.

"I don’t think there is a nationalist backlash. I think there are minority groups who are very vocal and who are against any deal which will include the Kurds. But there are not as many as they pretend. We see an overwhelming majority of the Turkish public [positively inclined] towards the peace process," said Aktar.

Opinion surveys point to conflicting views among the public. A strong majority favors a peaceful solution to the conflict, but there are equally strong feelings against talks with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.  

A recent poll showed a drop in public support for the government, although it still remains well ahead of the opposition. Polls also show a bump in support for the pro-nationalist MHP.  

Haber Turk newspaper columnist Soli Ozel says the recent protests against the wise people are an indication that the peace process is at a critical stage.

"Ambiguity is the big problem. The government has to do a better job of explaining what it is doing. There is a lot of ambivalence, there is a lot of suspicion, there is a lot of concern. But that’s why this withdrawal of the PKK forces [is important], also the fact that nobody has died in the last four months. If that continues throughout the summer, I suppose that will change the climate," said Ozel.

The withdrawal of PKK forces from Turkey is due to be completed in a few months.  By then, the government is expected to start unveiling steps it will take to address Kurdish demands.  Until then, political observers warn that members of the wise people initiative could be in for a rough ride.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More