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.
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.
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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs