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.
    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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, here's what the history of take-out food tells us about changes in American society

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora