News / Europe

Turkey Tries to Build Support for PKK Peace Talks

Demonstrators hold Kurdish flags and flags with portraits of the jailed Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] leader Abdullah Ocalan during a gathering to celebrate Newroz in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, March 21, 2013.Demonstrators hold Kurdish flags and flags with portraits of the jailed Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] leader Abdullah Ocalan during a gathering to celebrate Newroz in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, March 21, 2013.
x
Demonstrators hold Kurdish flags and flags with portraits of the jailed Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] leader Abdullah Ocalan during a gathering to celebrate Newroz in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, March 21, 2013.
Demonstrators hold Kurdish flags and flags with portraits of the jailed Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] leader Abdullah Ocalan during a gathering to celebrate Newroz in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, March 21, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Dorian Jones
— The Turkish government has created committees of so-called "wise people" made up of well-known personalities whose task is to explain ongoing efforts to end the fighting between the Kurdish rebel group the PKK and the Turkish state. The endeavor is proving controversial, though.

Turkey's “wise people” initiative has selected 63 of the country’s best-known personalities - from actors and writers to trade unionists and journalists - to promote current efforts to end decades of fighting between government forces and PKK rebels.

Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University said it could be a shrewd move.
 
"It’s a good initiative; Turkey needs to learn about it and people are curious, some are cautious, some are very dubious about the peace. So it's always good to talk people everywhere in Turkey. So I think it’s a very positive initiative," said Aktar.
 
The “wise people” have been split into groups to tour Turkey's seven regions. According to a government opinion poll, there is strong support in the predominantly Kurdish region of Turkey for the current talks with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who last month called on his rebel group to observe a cease-fire and withdraw from Turkey.

According to the same poll, however, people in the rest of the country are more divided, with only a small majority in favor of talks.

The “wise people” already have started holding meetings with local civic society groups and political parties.

Writer Sibel Eraslan said the strength of the initiative is their diversity.
 
"The mere fact that we came together despite all our differences is important," she said. "Our first meeting saw people from across the political spectrum attending. This is very positive."
 
But the initiative has been criticized by the largest pro-Kurdish party, the Peace and Democracy Party, which claim there are too few Kurds and experts on the Kurdish conflict among the "wise people."

Gokhan Gunaydin, deputy head of the main opposition Republican People’s party, accuses them of promoting the ruling AK party’s interests.
 
"They are traveling all over Turkey to make propaganda about the AK party," he said. "These artists must have one quality. They should be independent and objective. But there are serious concerns that those that are selected are not independent."
 
Observers warn the whole current peace process is threatening to fall victim to party politics. In parliament this week, there were angry clashes over setting up a parliamentary commission to work on the peace process. The main opposition parties accuse the government of pursuing peace for its own political ends.

Political scientist Aktar said more visibility into the process is urgently needed.

"This policy should become as transparent of possible to ensure of the ownership of it - the ownership by the other political parties, but especially the ownership by society,"  said Aktar. "So, therefore it needs to become transparent: we need to talk truth and reconciliation, we [need to] talk economic development, we need to talk decentralization, return of refugees, amnesty, legal and constitutional changes."

The government argues its “wise people” initiative is aimed at addressing transparency concerns. But critics say that with the current peace efforts largely confined to secret talks between the country’s intelligence chief and  imprisoned PKK leader Ocalan, suspicions over the talks will remain.

An expert on the conflict, political columnist Kadri Gursel of the newspaper Milliyet, said that even on the Kurdish side, where there appears to be widespread support for the peace process, that process needs to be widened.

"Negotiation must involve and include the bulk of the Kurdish movement, which is the military wing, the legal political wing, and the PKK in Europe. Without the systematic and real involvement of them, with only Ocalan, I think any peace process cannot advance," said Gursel.

Over the next two months, the “wise people” will be holdings meetings across the country to build up momentum for the peace efforts among Kurds and Turks.

Supporters of the effort argue such momentum is key to overcoming party political tensions and consolidating the peace process. But critics warn that without concrete steps to widen the peace process, suspicions and skepticism can only grow, which ultimately could derail it.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid