NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON AMERICAN FOREING POLICY
DISARMING, DEMOBILIZING, AND REINTEGRATING
THE KURDISTAN WORKER'S PARTY (PKK)
David L. Phillips
15 October 2007
NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY
The National Committee on American Foreign Policy was founded in 1974 by Professor Hans J. Morgenthau and others. It is a nonprofit, activist organization dedicated to the resolution of conflicts that threaten U.S. interests. Toward that end, the National Committee identifies, articulates, and helps advance American foreign policy interests from a nonpartisan perspective within the framework of political realism.
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- supporting countries committed to the values and the practice of political, religious, and cultural pluralism;
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- promoting an open and global economy.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Section I: Introduction
Section II: Findings
- The Deep State
- Ocalan's Fate
- Justice and Development Party
- EU Influence
- The Iraq Factor
Section III: The Way Forward
- Implement Reforms
- Democratize the Army
- Respect Iraq's Sovereignty
- Develop Amnesty Arrangements
- Identify an Interlocutor
- Explore a Truth and Reconciliation Process
- Invest in Infrastructure
- Expand Social Welfare
- Support Reintegration
- Create Jobs
- Apply Sticks and Carrots
- About the Author
- Methodology and Acknowledgements
SECTION I: INTRODUCTION
This research report by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP) suggests strategies for disarming, demobilizing, and reintegrating (DDR) the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). To this end, it proposes measures for how the international community and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) can increase pressure on the PKK. It also assesses the political and socio-economic conditions that increase support for the PKK among Turkish Kurds. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under pressure to act decisively. However, he should avoid military action against the PKK in Northern Iraq, which would have serious repercussions. Military action would undermine Turkey's democratic development, radicalize Turkish Kurds, and risk a regional conflagration that would both adversely affect relations between the United States and Turkey and compromise Turkey's candidacy for membership in the European Union (EU).
A Turkish solution to the PKK problem would be based on Turkey's continued democratization and improved living standards for all citizens, including those of Kurdish descent. The proposed "civil constitution" is an important step forward in the institutionalization of minority rights in accordance with European Convention on Human Rights. Full implementation of political and cultural reforms and the abolition of regressive legislation, such as the Anti-Terror Act and Article 301 of the Penal Code, would effectively address Kurdish grievances by enhancing the rule of law and promoting Turkey's overall development as a democracy.
Another part of the solution is the improvement of economic conditions in the Southeast. Privatization and land reform would create jobs, and the region's infrastructure, such as roads and water works, would benefit from additional investment. International donors can assist in these areas by earmarking funds to strengthen traditional sources of income, such as animal husbandry, and by applying new technologies to indigenous agro-industries. To promote social development, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) should expand funding for health care and education, particularly for girls, as well as for programs that emancipate women from their traditional roles in Kurdish feudal society.
The EU has an important role to play in supporting reform in Turkey. Erdogan has shown that he will pursue reforms not because Western diplomats tell him to, but because it is in Turkey's best interest. However, the prospect of EU membership is critical to sustaining Erdogan's reform agenda. A "special partnership" with the EU is an inadequate substitute for negotiations on full membership. Only a strong and united message of support for Turkey's candidacy from EU member states, especially Germany and France, can sustain the momentum for what will be difficult reforms, including the most pressing challenges of fully subordinating Turkey's armed forces to civilian control and disempowering state structures that impede progress to maintain the status quo.
The question of the PKK will require specific sticks as well as carrots. The international community can increase pressure on the PKK by targeting its financing and propaganda infrastructure. The European Counter Terrorism Group could take the lead in investigating illicit revenues that fund the PKK. The UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, established to deny funding to terrorist activities, could also request that the EU and other member states that tolerate PKK front organizations to document their efforts aimed at cutting off funding. The licenses for European-based PKK media outlets that incite hatred or endorse violence should also be revoked. [i]
The Government of Iraq (GOI) and the KRG can complement these efforts to increase pressure on the PKK. The Turkey-Iraq Counter-Terrorism Agreement of September 28, 2007 is a step in the right direction. Though it establishes a legal basis for cooperation on financing and intelligence efforts, the agreement falls short of Turkey's expectations. It explicitly rejects Turkey's demand for authority to enter Iraqi territory in pursuit of the PKK. In addition, the GOI is too dysfunctional to implement the agreement especially in territories where the KRG has the power of enforcement.
Though the KRG was excluded from negotiations, it can act on its own to support commitments embodied in the agreement. Accordingly, it should take steps to hamper the PKK activity by (i) replacing PKK check-points around Qandil with KRG forces; (ii) interdicting funds reputedly transferred to the PKK by air travelers via Erbil; (iii) repatriating Makhmour Camp residents to Turkey; and (iv) restricting the activities of groups in Iraqi Kurdistan that condone PKK violence (e.g. Democratic Solution Party). If KRG President Massoud Barzani takes these steps, Turkey should stop vilifying him and instead dispatch a special envoy to open a direct channel for diplomatic negotiations. It can also promote cross-border goodwill by expediting trade and transit procedures at the Habur gate, and opening more border crossings between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. Both Turkey and the KRG have an interest in good relations.
Finally and perhaps most critically, Massoud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talibani can use their influence with the PKK to negotiate a 12-month cease-fire. This will de-escalate the current risk of Turkish military action and offer the Turks a chance to consider a more long-term and effective strategy for reducing the threat posed by the PKK, rather than aggravating the crisis with military intervention. It will also give Turkey the time it needs to implement the reforms and programs proposed here.
All of these steps are essential to creating an alternative to the build-up of Turkish troops in Iraq, which threaten more than just the PKK. The buildup also serves as a warning to Iraqi Kurds on Kirkuk. Turkey adamantly opposes the union of the Kirkuk governorate with the KRG. Many Turks fear Kirkuk's accession would trigger the emergence of a de-facto independent Kurdish state in Iraq that would inspire the separatist ambitions of Turkish Kurds and thus threaten the indivisibility of Turkey. They need not worry. Kurds overwhelmingly prefer to be a part of Europe than a landlocked "greater Kurdistan." Moreover, Turkey may come to realize that a stable, secular, and pro-Western Iraqi Kurdistan is a useful buffer between it and an increasingly unstable and Islamicized Iraq. Good neighborly relations with Iraqi Kurdistan could also yield a windfall of economic benefits in the form of oil transport fees, water rights, construction deals, oil development contracts, and cross-border trade.
A solution to the problems posed by the PKK cannot be achieved on the battlefield. Rather, the PKK must ultimately make a strategic decision that it wants and will pursue peace. Should this occur, an amnesty arrangement for former PKK members will be necessary. Amnesty is repugnant to many Turks, whose emotions are riled daily by media reports of grieving families clutching pictures and crying over the coffins of PKK victims. However, without amnesty, Turkey will at best manage but never solve the PKK problem. Turkey has a long tradition of amnesties, but when it comes to the PKK, the term "General Amnesty" (Genel Af) is too contentious. Instead, "Winning to the Society" (Topluma Kazanma) would be a more palatable way to characterize the DDR process.
Any amnesty program would need to proceed in phases. First, eligibility would be offered to PKK members who joined after 2002. Cadres without command responsibility would be next. PKK leaders will scuttle the DDR package unless it has something in it for them, and while the 134 senior commanders given "red bulletins" by Interpol would not be eligible for amnesty, they could apply for asylum in their country of residence. To create and implement a successful amnesty program, it would be useful for Turks to study the experience of other countries that have faced post-conflict dilemmas.
Currently, however, Turkey refuses to negotiate with the PKK. Therefore, a legitimate and acceptable interlocutor is needed. The Democratic Society Party (DTP) has 21 deputies elected to serve Kurdish constituencies in the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA). Precisely because its members have ties to Abdullah Ocalan and other PKK factions, the DTP can be an effective liaison. Members of the diplomatic community should engage the DTP parliamentarians to provide counsel and bolster their credibility. The DTP can also gain credibility independently by condemning terrorism and reaffirming Turkey's territorial integrity.
The United States has a critical role to play as well. Conspiracy theorists in Turkey maintain that the United States is plotting to diminish Turkish power by harboring the PKK in Iraq and shepherding the emergence of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan. To demonstrate this is not the case, the US must redouble its efforts to strengthen its relationship with Turkey. A souring of relations between the two countries would not be in the interest of either. The United States needs Turkey to support its efforts in Iraq, including continued permission to use Incirlik Air Base, through which 70 percent of air supplies to US troops in Iraq are transported. As a valued member of NATO, Turkey also plays an important role in Afghanistan. The United States can help by addressing Turkey's broad political, economic and security interests. These include, but are not limited to, encouraging the GOI and KRG to bring their influence to bear on the PKK.
SECTION II: FINDINGS
Kurds are the largest stateless minority in the world. There are an estimated 30 million Kurds in a geographic area that includes territory in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Armenia. More than half of the world's Kurds live in Turkey, where they represent approximately 20 percent of the population.
Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk ("the father of all Turks"), collected the remnants of the Ottoman Empire to create the Republic of Turkey in 1923. Although Ataturk was committed to building a truly modern state on par with its European neighbors, he was wary of European intentions. In the wake of World War I, the terms set by the Allies in the Sevres Treaty of 1920 partitioned Turkey, reducing it to one-third of its current size, and promised the Kurds a country of their own. Ataturk rejected the treaty, rallying Turks in a "war of liberation" that led to the replacement of Sevres with the Lausanne Treaty in 1923.
In response, Kurds launched an insurgency in 1925 with the goal of establishing an independent homeland. The rebellion was brutally put down and its ringleaders hanged in the central square of Diyarbakir. After a series of uprisings that culminated in another rebellion in 1937, Turkey adopted draconian measures denying the very existence of Kurds in Turkey, referring to them only as "Mountain Turks." Kurdish language, culture and geographical place names were banned. The crackdown intensified after Turkey's military coup on September 12, 1980, when the junta's constitution curtailed Kurdish rights even further. Billboards across Turkey echoed Ataturk's message: "Happy is he who can call himself a Turk." [ii]
The PKK was founded by Abdullah Ocalan in 1978. Influenced by the ideological struggle that defined the Cold War and the worldwide anti-colonial movement of the 1970s, the PKK charter called for a Marxist proletarian revolution. It envisioned the PKK as the "vanguard of the global socialist movement," in which the revolution's fundamental force would be a "worker-peasant alliance." The charter condemned "the repressive exploitation of the Kurds" and called for a "democratic and united Kurdistan." [iii] Ocalan saw the establishment of a Kurdish state in southeast Anatolia (Turkey) as the first step toward the creation of an independent and united "Greater Kurdistan" encompassing a vast territory that would include Kurds with different dialects (Zaza, Kurmanji, and Surani), from different Muslim denominations (Sunni, Shafii and Alevi), and from different countries (Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria). [iv]
Ocalan fashioned the PKK as a rigid hierarchical organization that operated with Stalinist discipline. Ultimate authority rested with Ocalan, who cultivated a cult of personality, brutally suppressed dissent, and purged opponents. Defectors were assassinated in Sweden (1984 and 1985), Denmark (1985), the Netherlands (1987 and 1989), and Germany (1986, 1987 and 1988). [v] In 1986, up to 60 PKK members were executed, including five of the original central committee members. Others went underground.
Ocalan demanded that Kurds choose between loyalty to Turkey and support for the PKK. Brutal and swift punishment was meted out to those who refused to cooperate. The PKK targeted Kurdish elites who sided with the Turkish establishment as well as Kurds who worked for state institutions. Between 1984 and 1987, the PKK kidnapped or killed 217 teachers. It burned hundreds of rural schools, effectively shutting down the education system. Hospitals were attacked and doctors and nurses were killed. In June 1987, the PKK slaughtered residents in the village of Pinarcik because they were unsympathetic to its cause. Two months later, it killed 24 residents of Kilickaya including 14 children. Between 1995 and 1999, its "suicide guerilla teams" were responsible for 21 suicide terrorist attacks. [vi] The United States listed the PKK as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in 2001. Soon after, Canada, and the United Kingdom classified the PKK as an FTO. The EU added it to the terror list in May 2002. Based on court orders, Interpol has issued "red bulletins" for 134 leaders of the PKK. [vii]
The PKK was run like a criminal gang. Financing came from a "revolutionary tax" provided by Kurdish businessmen in Turkey who were forced to pay or face the consequences, including murder, kidnapping, ransoming and destruction of personal property. The PKK also organized protection rackets targeting Kurdish owned businesses across Europe. In addition, voluntary financing was provided by the Kurdish Diaspora in Europe through cultural associations and information centers such as the Kurdish Employers Association, the Kurdish Islamic Movement, and the Kurdish Red Crescent. These organizations raised funds for the PKK and facilitated money transfers through subsidiary foundations in Switzerland, Britain, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark and Cyprus. The PKK also financed its operations through drug and arms smuggling, human trafficking and extortion. In 1998, the British government maintained that the PKK was responsible for 40 percent of the heroin sold in Europe. [viii] At its peak, the PKK's annual income was as high as $500 million. [ix] Turkish officials maintain that the PKK was still receiving $150 million in annual revenue as of 2005. Officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasize that as these numbers suggest, "PKK leaders are concerned about survival, power, and money -- not just about terrorism" [x]
Turkey responded to the PKK with an iron fist. The government put several southeastern provinces under martial law and, in the late 1980's, declared a state of emergency. It invoked Article 14 of the constitution to crack down on activities that threatened the "indivisibility of the state." It also invoked Article 125 of the Penal Code, which stipulated that "Any person who carries out any action intended to destroy the unity of the Turkish state or separate any part of the territory shall be punishable by death," as well as Article 8 of the "Law for Fighting against Terrorism," which defined terrorism so broadly it was used to criminalize any free discussion about Kurdish issues. [xi]
Army camps, police checkpoints, and military airports were established from the Semdinli Mountains in the southeast to Siirt near the border with Syria. Major military operations against the PKK were launched in 1989 and again in 1992. PKK activities peaked in 1993 when there were 4,198 reported clashes between the PKK and security forces. [xii] By 1995, up to 150,000 Turkish troops and police were involved in seek and destroy missions within Turkey as well as across international frontiers. These efforts also included political assassination; government-backed death squads killed hundreds of suspected PKK sympathizers. [xiii] Between 1989 and 1996, more than 1,500 persons affiliated with the Kurdish opposition were victims of unidentified murderers. Close to 500 disappeared between 1991 and 1997, and between 1983 and 1994, 230 people --many of them Kurds -- died from torture while in police custody. [xiv]
Additionally, the Turkish government instituted a displacement policy intended to deprive the PKK of shelter and support from the local population. Residents from about 378,000 villagers were forcibly evacuated, and cities such as Diyarbakir and Cizre and Nusaybin more than doubled in size. [xv] Diyarbakir's unemployment rate skyrocketed to 70 percent; its poverty rate rose to 39.7 percent and more than 10,000 shanty-town homes sprung up in the city. [xvi] Pitting Kurd against Kurd, the state hired and equipped 60,000 paramilitaries to serve as the "village guard system." The authorities explained that the system was intended to help villagers defend themselves, but it had the opposite effect by polarizing communities and acting as a magnet for PKK operations.
Turkey tried to undermine popular support for the PKK by focusing on economic development. From 1982 to 1992, it invested $20 billion in the "GAP Project," a massive irrigation and hydroelectric scheme that sought to harness the Tigris and Euphrates by building 20 dams, including the $2.3 billion Ataturk Dam, the ninth largest in the world. Its irrigation network was designed to service 1.7 million hectares, increase agricultural production seven fold, triple per-capita income, and create 3.3 million new jobs.
Turkey also instituted a "GAP Social Action Plan," emphasizing human development and social services, but it fell far short of expectations. Financing shortfalls and the ongoing security crisis, including PKK attacks, undermined GAP's success. Seasonal herding and small-scale agriculture activities became almost impossible with the declaration of a state of emergency in many Southeast provinces. Security operations were also a drain on the national economy costing $8 billion per year. Turkey estimates that the total cost of the conflict has been $200 billion. [xvii]
The Deep State
The so-called "deep state" -- interwoven ultranationalist interest groups including the army, police, government bureaucrats, and corrupt politicians who cooperate with mafia-style figures -- acts as a shadow government in Turkey. Its affiliates believe that ensuring state security and the continuity of official institutions comprising the bureaucracy are paramount. The constitution empowers the National Security Council (NSC) to take whatever steps it deems "necessary for the preservation of the State," which it calls "sacred." Instead of promoting the interests of individual citizens, the deep state is preoccupied with preserving its privileges and power. According to Suleyman Demirel, a former president and seven-time prime minister, "It is a fundamental principle that there is one state. But in our country there are two." A product of Turkey's inefficient central government, the state resisted attempts to democratize the Southeast or Turkey in general. Its preference for uniformity and its failure to reconcile ethnic, religious, and cultural identities, resulted in a breakdown of social cohesion and a general sense of social estrangement.
Turkey's military is a vested part of the deep state. Historically, Turkey's military has been the unflinching guardians of Ataturk's commitment to secularism, nationalism, and modernization. Officers see their mission as extending beyond the protection of Turkish territory to include warding off threats to public order, such as separatism, terrorism, and religious fundamentalism. Kurds in particular resent the army's paternalistic approach, exemplified in the statement by a member of the Turkish General Staff (TGS) that "If there is need for more democracy, we will bring it." [xviii] Threats, both real and imagined, are used to sustain a primary role for the military in public affairs and justify its expenditures. Rather than promoting security, the military and its state cohorts have a history of staging incidents to justify recrimination. In November 2005, for example, a bomb was thrown from the window of a white Dogan car window killing the owner of the Hope bookstore in Semdinli, Hakkari province. A crowd pursued the vehicle and apprehended the bombers who turned out to be security officers. In the car, which belonged to the gendarmerie, they found an identification badge from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, several AK-47 rifles, and a list of other Kurdish targets. The bombing was one of twenty incidents that occurred in Hakkari. All were staged to appear to be acts PKK terrorism. Kurds responded with protests in towns and cities across the Southeast. Peaceful protesters were violently dispersed; four civilians were killed by police. Human Rights Watch and other groups condemned Turkey's heavy-handed response, charging excessive use of force.
The Semdinli affair was an echo of the 1996 Susurluk incident, which revealed a cabal between the state, security services, and mafia-style types to assassinate civilian opponents in return for sharing the spoils from narcotics trafficking by criminal groups. The Semdinli affair reinforced the view that Turkey's state institutions were actually an impediment to social welfare. A parliamentary committee was established to investigate, but at least one member received death threats. Concerns about military interference were sparked when it was revealed that General Yasar Buyukanit tampered with the judiciary to exonerate the Semdinli bomber. Highlighting the military's impunity and its role in undermining the rule of law, the Semdinli prosecutor was removed from his post and his license to practice law was revoked.
The PKK found safe haven in Syria after military pressure forced Ocalan to flee Turkey in the late 1990s. Turkey built the Ataturk and Birecik Dams on the Euphrates River and threatened to cut off water supplies to Syria unless it severed ties with the PKK. In October 1998, Syria signed the Adana Memorandum, designating the PKK a terrorist organization and committing to evict the PKK from Syrian territory. Thus began Ocalan's odyssey to Rome, Moscow, Amsterdam, Athens and Nairobi, where he was apprehended by Turkish Special Forces. On February 16, 1999, Turkish television showed images of Turkey's most wanted fugitive -- hooded, drugged and dazed. While most Turks celebrated, Kurds stormed embassies, seized hostages, and burned themselves in protest across Europe. They were expressing solidarity with Ocalan, whom they revere for standing up to the state and demanding human rights for Kurds.
In a surprising display of remorse that some called characteristic cowardice, Ocalan offered to end the PKK's armed struggle in exchange for his life. "The democratic option is the only alternative to solving the Kurdish question. Separation is neither possible nor necessary. We want peace, dialogue, and free political action within the framework of a democratic Turkish state." [xix] He pleaded, "Give me a chance. In three months, I will bring all of them down from the mountains." [xx] A Turkish state security court convicted Ocalan of treason in June 1999. Conforming to EU prohibitions against capital punishment, his death sentence was commuted to a life sentence at a maximum security facility on Imrali Island in the Marmara Sea. [xxi]
Most Kurds favor living in peace with their Turkish brethren within the boundaries of Turkey. Various public opinion polls indicate that Kurds do not want a separate state. The overwhelming majority of Turkey's Kurds believe that they can advance their goals through the political process. However, while Kurdish political parties fielded candidates to run for parliament over the years and were able to win control of municipal governments, they had had little success at the national level. Turkey's electoral law prohibits parties from being seated in parliament unless they receive more than 10 percent of the national vote. As a result of this undemocratic and counter-productive requirement, no exclusively Kurdish party was ever able to pass the threshold for participation in parliament. When hybrid parties did win enough support to join the TGNA, Turkish authorities banned them or applied other pressure that undermined their ability to work within the political system to promote Kurdish interests. In October 1991, the People's Labor Party (HEP) won 18 seats in parliamentary elections. However, Turkish legislators were incensed when Leyla Zana insisted on taking her oath of office in Kurdish and wearing a tricolor band of the PKK's traditional Kurdish colors. HEP was banned and its leaders thrown in jail for being accessories to a terrorist organization.
President Turgut Ozal, who served as President of Turkey from 1989 to 1993, was a visionary. He recognized that the PKK could be undermined by giving Kurdish political parties a greater role in national politics. He also believed that reforms would moderate Kurds and make them better citizens, and lifted the ban on Kurdish language in 1991. Ozal even floated the idea of a general amnesty for PKK fighters. However, Ozal died before he could implement the reforms he had envisioned for Turkey. In August 1992, Suleyman Demirel met with mayors belonging to HEP's successor, the Kurdish Democratic Party (HADEP), which controlled 37 municipal governments. Like Ozal, he was denounced by ultranationalists for acknowledging the legitimacy of Kurdish political activity. A decade of violent conflict ensued.
In April 2002, the PKK formally disbanded and became the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK). Frustrated by the slow pace of reforms, KADEK demanded that Turkey adopt a new constitution declaring Turks and Kurds two constituent nations in Turkey and enshrining Kurdish political and cultural rights. KADEK dissolved in 2003 after the State Department added it to the list of FTOs. A year later, it was re-established under a new name, the Kurdistan Society Congress (Kongra-Gel), which the US and EU would eventually designate as an FTO. Angered that the government would not respond to its overtures, the PKK ended its self-declared 1999 truce in June 2004. Fund raising in the Kurdish Diaspora had become increasingly difficult. Absent military operations, the PKK had little to show for itself.
Currently, the PKK lacks a clear command and control structure. From his jail cell, Ocalan is still a powerful figure, issuing instructions through his lawyers and via European-based media outlets. But other factions have emerged within the PKK, and while DTP Members of Parliament (MPs) are subordinate to Ocalan, they privately chafe under his control. They may owe him their jobs, but they are ideologically independent from PKK hard-liners. In response to Erdogan's demand that the DTP MPs renounce PKK terror, one representative explained that neither he nor his colleagues support violence, but "Every Kurd has a family member involved with the PKK. How can I condemn my own children?" [xxii] The DTP's moderate approach stands in contrast to the popular sentiment among the Kurdish Diaspora in Europe that the Turkish state only responds to violence. Violence is highly decentralized. The Qandil faction has the weapons. Its field commanders have been involved with the insurgency for decades, but many of its new members are Kurdish youth who would come down from the mountains if they had a job and were assured basic rights.
PKK operations continue to be deadly. PKK actions resulted in the deaths of about 200 soldiers and civilians in 2005, and more than 600 people died as a result of PKK activity the following year. During the first half of 2007, 225 people – including 167 soldiers -- died as a result of attacks by the PKK. [xxiii] There have recently been demands for air strikes on Qandil and a major cross-border operation after the killing of 13 elite special commandos in Sirnak on October 7, 2007.
AKP Justice and Development Party
Erdogan's AKP first swept to victory in November 2002. Though Erdogan is a devout Muslim, he won favor as Prime Minister by distancing himself from radical Islam, condemning corruption, and embracing moderate, democratic positions. Erdogan nominated Abdullah Gul to the presidency, but the military feared his devotion to Islam blocked the nomination with the threat of a coup. Erdogan held early elections on July 22, 2007, and in an overwhelming endorsement, the AKP won 47.6 percent of the vote, gaining 340 of the 550 seats in the TGNA.
AKP's margin was fueled by support in the South and Southeast, where it received more votes than the DTP, which had emerged after Kongra-gel as the political voice of the Kurds. The AKP was rewarded for spending lavishly on roads, schools and different social services. Kurds credited AKP for legislative reforms that enabled greater cultural rights including Kurdish language broadcasts and education. The AKP's conservative values and grass roots outreach through local organizations also appealed to Kurdish voters who increasingly reject ethnic politics. The PKK may sense that its popular support is slipping away, and the recent spike in PKK violence may be an effort to reassert its importance after the AKP's strong performance in last July's elections.
Though the DTP did not fare as well as expected, the results were still a significant victory for the Party. Bypassing the barrier requirements, 21 Kurds were elected as independent deputies. According to a DTP parliamentarian, "By voting for the AKP and DTP, both Turks and Kurds demonstrated that they are against their respective militaries." [xxiv] Relations between AKP and DTP were strained, however, when the DTP called for improving Ocalan's prison conditions. When AKP ignored its appeal, DTP parliamentarians abstained from the third round of voting to confirm Abdullah Gul as President. Despite this tension between the parties, Gul spoke directly to the Kurdish problem during his inaugural address, heralding diversity as Turkey's strength, calling for greater cultural rights of minorities, including official use of minority languages, and underscoring the need for greater individual rights in the new constitution. Gul was warmly received when he chose to visit Kurdish cities in the Southeast as his first domestic trip. DTP members who met Gul have emphasized the importance of amnesty to address the PKK problem.
The elections were deeply humiliating for the military. The army's bullying backfired, antagonizing Turks and further increasing support among Kurds for the AKP. Revealing the degree of its hostility to AKP, Buyukanit and other top generals boycotted Gul's swearing-in ceremony in the parliament and violated a long-standing tradition by skipping Gul's first official reception. Buyukanit begrudgingly waited more than 2 weeks before finally congratulating Gul on his election as president.
The ultranationalist National Action Party (MHP) capitalized on social tensions to cross the barrier for representation in the parliament, winning 13 percent of the vote. In coalition with the Republican People's Party (CHP), it vowed to disrupt AKP reforms. MHP and CHP are especially wary of plans to replace the 1982 constitution, which was adopted by the military government after its coup. Drafting of the new charter is underway. It will be Turkey's first constitution written entirely by civilians and vetted by civil society. The draft harmonizes Turkey's approach to ethnic and religious issues with the standards set by the European Convention on Human Rights. It also eliminates provisions in the earlier constitution for suspending human rights during martial law, which historically have been used to crack down on those who threatened "the indivisible integrity of the state." [xxv]
Joining the EU was a national obsession for many Turks in the 1990s. Though it joined the EU Customs Union in 1996, Turkey's prospects looked bleak when several former Communist countries jumped the queue and Turkey was not even considered as a candidate the following year. Turkish officials felt that Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker added insult to injury by stating, "A country in which torture is still a common practice cannot have a seat at the table of the European Union." Juncker's derogatory comment convinced many Turks that the EU simply did not want Turkey in its Christian club, regardless of reforms.
At the Copenhagen, Summit, the EU outlined the political and economic conditions that prospective members had to satisfy before formal accession talks could begin. Known as the "Copenhagen criteria," these conditions included economic reforms and the presence of stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Erdogan adamantly embraces the goal of EU membership, arguing that integrating Turkey will "expand the reach of the EU and demonstrate that a genuine harmony is possible between civilizations." [xxvi] Most Turks agree with him. A 2005 popular opinion poll asked whether Turkey's future was in Europe. 77.4 percent of respondents favored EU membership. Kurds, too, overwhelmingly prefer to be a part of Europe than a landlocked "greater Kurdistan"; 83.3 percent responded affirmatively when asked about EU membership. [xxvii] Though support has recently waned, a vast majority of Turks still believe in the transformative effect that joining the EU will have on living standards and political freedoms. [xxviii]
To advance the goal of EU membership, Erdogan vigorously pursued legislative and constitutional reforms that liberalized the political system and relaxed restrictions on freedom of the press, association, and expression. The government abolished the death penalty, revised the penal code, reinforced the rights of women, reduced restrictions on minority language broadcasts, ended random searches without a court order, and implemented a policy of zero tolerance towards torture. It adopted measures to dismantle state security courts, enhance independence of the judiciary and reform the prison system. It amended the anti-terror statutes as well as the Penal Code and the Codes of Criminal and Administrative Procedure. Turkey signed and ratified protocols 6 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The AKP also tried to tackle the thorny task of subordinating Turkey's powerful military to civilian authority. In May 2004, a constitutional amendment terminated special off-budget accounts that were used to finance the pet projects of commanders. Military courts were barred from prosecuting civilians in peacetime. The NSC was enlarged giving civilians the majority of seats. A provision was removed that required that the NSC secretary general be a four-star general, and the NSC rotation helped retire hard-line generals. The NSC's specific powers were also curtailed by, for example, denying it carte blanche to investigate civilians. Measures were adopted preventing the military from convening meetings and curtailing their frequency, and the NSC became a consultative body under control of the elected government.
Affirming the belief that the road to the EU passes through Diyarbakir, Erdogan took steps to advance the rights of Kurds. [xxix] New regulations were adopted allowing 45 minutes per week of Kurdish language broadcasts to be aired on state-sponsored television and Kurdish language was permitted in private schools. The "Homecoming Law" was adopted in August 2003. It offered provisional reintegration for Kurds who agreed to lay down their arms. A "Back to Village Program" promised grants to returnees so they could rebuild their homes, farms, and livestock. In June 2004, an appeals court ordered the release of Leyla Zana and three other Kurdish parliamentarians who had languished in jail for over a decade.
Erdogan also recognized that the PKK problem could not be solved through military means alone. During a visit to Diyarbakir in August 2005 he said, "A great and powerful nation must have the confidence to face itself, recognize the mistakes and sins of its past, and march confidently into the future… ready to consult anyone…Turkey will not retreat from the point we have reached. We will not step back from our process of democratization." [xxx] When judges ordered the release of some PKK members and reduced the sentences of others, Kurds hoped Erdogan was prepared to talk with the PKK and work out the details of an amnesty arrangement that, according to a DTP parliamentarian, would allow the PKK to "come down from the mountains without losing face." Yusuf Kanli, editor in chief of the Turkish Daily News, described Erdogan's approach as a "discreet and limited amnesty" aimed at "healing the wounds by our twenty years of trauma." [xxxi]
The European Council noted progress as well as problems in Turkey's implementation of reforms. [xxxii] It found that the amount of time allocated to Kurdish language television broadcasts was capped and, though Kurdish was allowed in private schools, few students could afford the tuition. In June 2005, the governor of Ankara refused to issue a business license to the Kurdish Democracy Culture and Solidarity Association, claiming its agenda of cultural rights was unconstitutional. With regard to the security situation, Diyarbakir, Batman, Sirnak, Mardin, Siirt, Hakari, Bingol, and Tunceli were called "critical provinces" and governed under a special administrative law that created a permissive environment enabling the armed forces to commit abuses with impunity. Limited progress was made in reintegrating former militia members and returning displaced persons to their homes; only 1,873 persons were reintegrated during the first six months of the program, in part because the "Back to Village Program" failed to create amenable conditions for return. Basic infrastructure, such as electricity and telephone service, remained inadequate; the continued presence of village guards also discouraged returns. Only 5,239 of 104,734 persons eligible for compensation applied and, of those, only 1,190 received any payment. [xxxiii]
Turkey also failed to reform laws stifling free speech. Adopted in October 2005, Article 150 of the criminal code imposed penalties for insulting state institutions. In 2005, the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk stated that "30,000 Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands but nobody dares to talk about it." [xxxiv] He was charged with "insulting Turkishness" under Article 301 of the Penal Code. [xxxv]
Although the EU initiated formal negotiations with Turkey in 2005, it will take a very long time before Turkey meets all the requirements. There are 60,000 pages of regulations governing candidacy, and there is no guarantee of membership even if Turkey makes decisive progress. Turkey's refusal to implement a customs union agreement with Cyprus, an EU member, compounds the difficulty. So does the fact that EU membership requires approval by all members, some of whom will make their vote subject to popular referendum.
Critics of Turkey in Europe seized on the slow implementation of reforms to try and block its EU membership. The French and Dutch votes against ratification of the European constitution were at least in part a reaction to Turkey's candidacy. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a "special partnership" short of full membership, and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy proclaimed, "Turkey has no place in Europe." [xxxvi] Merkel, Sarkozy and other opponents may be gradually softening their opposition as they recognize that lack of progress undermines Turkey's democracy, strengthens nationalists and the military, and increases the prospects of conflict between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds. When they met at the UN General Assembly in September 2007, Sarkozy told Erdogan that he "supported Turkey's accession." [xxxvii]
The Iraq Factor
Turkey strongly opposed America's war in Iraq. US-Turkish relations reached a low point when the TGNA failed to authorize the transit of the Fourth Infantry Division through Turkey into Iraq on March 1, 2003. The Bush administration's failure to act against the PKK has further fueled Turkish anti-Americanism. Today, antipathy towards the United States is at an all-time high. According to a 2007 German Marshall Fund survey, only 9 percent of Turks have a favorable view of the United States. [xxxviii]
Many Turks believe that the US has a hidden agenda to establish a greater Kurdistan. As proof, they cite the fact that the PKK was able to reconstitute itself after the United States occupied Iraq in 2003. In addition to the PKK's presence in Turkey, Turkish officials maintain that up to 3,000 PKK members operate from 65 bases in Iraqi Kurdistan with their headquarters at a base in the Qandil Mountains 50 km from the Turkish border. [xxxix] Erdogan insists that "No country can tolerate the presence of a terrorist organization just across its border that threatens its stability and territorial integrity." [xl] When Erdogan visited the White House in June 2005, he criticized the "failure" of the United States to evict PKK fighters and urged the US to take action "eradicating the major thorn." [xli] He later warned, "We will have to do whatever it takes. And that 'whatever' is obvious." [xlii] During the summer of 2007, more than 150,000 Turkish troops massed on the Iraqi border threatening a cross-border operation to break the back of the PKK. The build-up was also intended to send a signal of Turkey's concern about Kirkuk.
Turkey adamantly opposes Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution that requires a popular referendum on Kirkuk's status by December 31, 2007. Iraqi Kurds were upset in 2005 when the interim constitution set 2007 as the deadline, and they are now even more upset that it might not happen by year's end -- or at all. The TGS has drawn a line in the sand. It sees the Kirkuk referendum as an integral step towards the realization of statehood for Iraqi Kurdistan and has implied that Turkey would deploy forces to prevent the Kirkuk referendum. In the meantime, many Kurds look longingly across the border at their brethren in Northern Iraq who now enjoy relative freedom and prosperity. Kurds in Turkey and other countries want what Iraqi Kurds have.
Turkey demands that the KRG take action against the PKK. But over the past 15 years, Iraqi Kurds unsuccessfully engaged the PKK militarily on 3 occasions, twice in consort with Turkish troops, and Iraqi Kurds currently have their hands full preventing the spread of violence related to the disintegration of Iraq. Neither the KRG nor US forces in Iraq want to open another front in the war by starting a full-blown confrontation with the PKK. The Counter-Terrorism Agreement between Turkey and Iraq (28 September 2007) establishes the basis for financial and intelligence cooperation. However, it falls far short of Turkey's demands that Iraq pay more than lip service to its concerns about PKK bases on Iraqi territory. Iraqi negotiators rejected a proposed clause that would have given Turkish troops permission to launch operations in Iraqi territory. Moreover, the agreement was negotiated without participation of the KRG. Erdogan may want to intensify cooperation with the GOI, but Baghdad has no functional jurisdiction over the KRG, which has enforcement responsibility for matters on its territory. Turkey's interests are ill-served by its vilification of Massoud Barzani, who is indispensable to any effort that targets the PKK. As Erdogan put it, "We can not do it alone. All countries must cooperate." [xliii]
Turkey is discouraged from undertaking a major military operation without the consent of the United States. This is unlikely, since the US badly needs Barzani's peshmarga to bolster Iraqi security forces. To prevent Turkey from losing patience and invading Iraqi Kurdistan, the Bush administration proposed a Tripartite Mechanism on intelligence sharing that included the US, Turkey and Iraq. General Joe Ralston (US Army, ret.) was appointed Special Envoy for Countering PKK Terrorism on August 25, 2006. After 7 meetings, it was clear that the initiative was going nowhere due to lack of responsiveness by the GOI and the KRG, intransigence by the Turks, and the unwillingness of the US to pressure either. Implementation might also have been slowed by some members of the US military who are still smarting from Turkey's decision to bar transit of US forces through Turkish territory at the outset of the Iraq War.
US and Turkish officials reportedly initiated discreet discussions on a joint military operation in July 2007 to forestall threats of an invasion by Turkey. This "covert activity," involving US Special Forces working with the Turkish Army, was aimed at neutralizing the PKK by killing its leaders and field commanders. The rumored operation never came to pass, ostensibly because of media coverage. [xliv] Later that month, Turkish media reported that the United States was using the PKK to channel money and weapons to its affiliate, the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) and other Iranian Kurdish groups as part of its strategy for contending with Iran. [xlv] But according to the US Embassy in Ankara, "The United States regards the PKK as a terrorist organization. We do not supply the PKK with weapons, transport, or anything else. We are not in discussions with the PKK about Iran or any other subject and we do not meet with its personnel. On the contrary, we are working to oppose PKK terrorism and to isolate the organization and its leaders in Northern Iraq and Europe." [xlvi]
SECTION III: THE WAY FORWARD
Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani should use their influence with the PKK to encourage a 12-month cease-fire. This would create a cooling off period averting a showdown between Turkey and the PKK and allowing Turkey time to proceed with reforms. Turkey could also use this period to explore the terms of DDR using the DTP as an interlocutor. Friends of Turkey should assist by providing political support, including intensified talks on EU membership, and financial assistance to support socio-economic development in the Southeast.
This report recommends the following elements:
Drafting Turkey's new civil constitution is an ongoing process. Meanwhile, statutory reforms should proceed, especially the abolition of Article 301 of the Penal Code, which makes it an offense to "denigrate Turkishness" or criticize state institutions. Articles 215, 216, 217 and 220 of the Penal Code, which limit freedom of expression and have been used to target Kurds, as well as the Anti-Terror Law, which allows too broad a definition of terrorism, also require reform. Measures are needed to transform the judiciary, which is rigid, unaccountable and deeply conservative. [xlvii] Cultural rights must also be expanded, including use of the Kurdish language in state-owned media, and public education and public services must be improved. Restrictions on religious freedom and minority rights require review as well.
Democratize the Army
Turkey has an unquestioned right to root out terrorists operating on its territory. However, its security forces should comply with universal legal principles and international human rights standards. Turkey's armed forces should function like a "democratic army." Neither the NSC nor the armed forces can continue to condone massive population transfers or a scorched earth policy. It can not be complicit with shadowy forces running rogue operations or assassinating civilians in order to foment strife and civil unrest. Such operations bring discredit on the entire institution of the armed forces, shame upon its leaders, and undermine international esteem for Turkey.
Respect Iraq's Sovereignty
Turkey can serve its national interests through cooperation with the KRG. Turkey can work with the GOI to increase pressure on the PKK through financial and intelligence cooperation, as called for in the Counter-Terrorism Agreement. Turkey has a strong economic interest in the Tak Tak oil fields, and receives lucrative energy transport fees. Turkish construction firms are the primary beneficiaries of an economic boom underway in Northern Iraq. Besides, Turkey might come to welcome the existence of a secular, pro-Western state of Iraqi Kurdistan that protects the rights of Iraqi Turkmen and acts as a buffer between Turkey and an increasingly volatile and Islamicized Iraq. Finally, Turkey should abandon efforts to prevent Kirkuk from joining the KRG. The more it objects, the more likely Iraqis will be to push for a referendum on Kirkuk's status and the less likely the KRG will be to adopt power-sharing arrangements protecting the rights of non-Kurdish Kirkukis. Making demands that go unheeded also makes Turkey look weak and ineffective.
Develop Amnesty Arrangements
When the AKP assumed office and Abdullah Gul was prime minister, nationalists and the military intervened to prevent the government's "repentance plan." Now is the time for the AKP to capitalize on its recent electoral victory to discreetly explore an amnesty arrangement, which will help persuade the PKK to disarm and demobilize once and for all. Any amnesty program would need to proceed in phases. First, eligibility would be offered to PKK members who joined after 2002. Cadres without command responsibility would be next. The 134 senior commanders given "red bulletins" by Interpol would not be eligible for amnesty, but they could apply for asylum in their country of residence, including Iraq, where President Jalal Talabani says they would be accommodated. [xlviii] Turks want all senior PKK members to stand trial in Turkey, and while Turkey has a long tradition of amnesties, foregoing justice will be a bitter pill to swallow. PKK commanders will do whatever it takes to retain its rank-and-file unless the arrangement addresses their fate as well. Terminology is critical: the term "General Amnesty" (Genel Af) is too contentious. Instead, the term "Winning to the Society" (Topluma Kazanma) would be a more palatable way to refer to the DDR process.
Identify an Interlocutor
The DTP could be an effective liaison since it politically untenable for any government to accept the PKK as a formal negotiating partner. The DTP includes 21 parliamentary deputies, who were elected to serve Kurdish constituencies in the TGNA, and its strong representation in local government gives it the necessary political legitimacy to serve as an interlocutor in negotiations. Erdogan has called on DTP members to condemn PKK terror, but requiring them to so would undermine their potential as interlocutors, for it is precisely because its members have ties to Ocalan, the Qandil clique, PKK guerillas in Turkey, and the Kurdish Diaspora in Europe that the DTP can be an effective intermediary. It is important to bolster the credibility of DTP parliamentarians. Even if the DTP members are unwilling to condemn the PKK specifically, they would gain credibility by condemning terror in general. Nationalists view the DTP as rogue outsiders, and the AKP must compensate by treating them as genuine partners in Turkey's democratization. The United States ambassador and other members of the diplomatic community should receive them at senior levels and provide counsel. Efforts by the DTP to liaise with the Diaspora faction could be enhanced by the intelligence ministries of France and Germany that are known to have contact with the PKK in Europe.
Explore a Truth and Reconciliation Process
Turkey faces a difficult legacy from its conflict with the PKK. Establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) would help build confidence and end the cycle of violence. It would also combat the culture of impunity and help entrench the rule of law. Getting to the truth will not be easy. "Multiple truths" exist. Both sides have their own version of "what really happened," and are adamantly convinced they already know it. Rather than wait for the post-conflict phase, Turks should start studying how other countries have developed systems for transitional justice following a period of protracted violence. An examination of relevant international experience could begin by sending Turks overseas on fact-finding trips and bringing TRC experts to Turkey. Private and discreet consultations could help Turks as they weigh an appropriate TRC for Turkey and consider specific options for how to implement it, such as having the Commission work to forge consensus by documenting events and producing a report that, as a neutral enterprise chartered and funded through an act of parliament, considers events over a specific time period.
Invest in Infrastructure
Turkey is currently reaping the benefits of macro-economic financial reforms implemented by the AKP after the financial crisis of 2001. No more telling indicator is the recent rise in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Between 1980 and 2003, FDI was just $19 billion whereas in 2006, it was $20 billion. [xlix] Turkey's overall economic well-being allows the AKP to renew Turkey's commitment to an economically-based solution to the conflict by earmarking public resources for investment in infrastructure such as road and water works. New dam projects can provide inexpensive electricity for economic growth. Investments in the transportation sector could include upgrading Diyarbakir's airport to accommodate international flights. Funds could also be dedicated to Turkey's state energy company for research and development of potential energy resources in the Southeast.
Expand Social Welfare
Additional investments in the Southeast could also be used to enhance social services such as health and education, and to subsidize return and resettlement efforts targeting civilians displaced by conflict with the PKK. Projects should incorporate the goal of dismantling the tribal and feudal character of local society, which impedes development. Women can play a crucial role in improving social welfare and enhancing civil society. Efforts should be made to help women shed the oppressive yoke of the patriarchal system. Girls would benefit from expanded educational opportunities affording them more choices and better opportunity. More projects should emphasize women's employment, and financial support through rural credit would generate small scale industries for women. Given the large size of families and the practice of multiple marriages among the Kurds, population planning programs are also needed.
The European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, or the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, the EU and the Government of Turkey could co-sponsor a "Peace and Development Fund." Assistance would support the Back to Village Program and provide compensation to homeowners in the event that their property has been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. The special administrative status of provinces in the Southeast should be revoked and the village guard system abolished. With international donor support, projects would target employment and social reintegration of the village guards with older members of the village guards eligible to receive a retirement pension.
The 30 percent unemployment rate in the Southeast can be reduced by upgrading traditional industries such as agricultural and animal husbandry. Southeastern Turkey has abundant water resources from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, as well as underground water supplies, but water resource management is grossly inadequate. Instead of flooding the Ataturk Dam, which wipes out the topsoil, drip irrigation would be a more effective and user-friendly technology. Land reform would involve bundling multi-ownership lots to allow economies of scale when introducing new irrigation and fertilizer production. The Middle East represents a ripe market for agro-industry and leather products. Improvements in animal husbandry can be achieved by introducing more efficient leather tanning and processing and linking production to distribution strategies emphasizing access to consumers. In addition to Habur, other border crossings to Iraq should be opened. Instead of intentionally delaying trucks carrying perishable goods and other consumer goods from Turkey to Iraq, the Turkish gendarmerie should expedite transport and the Interior Ministry expedite visas for businessmen from Northern Iraq considering investment or joint ventures with enterprises in the Southeast. Establishing a planning office within the Office of the Prime Minister would promote inter-agency coordination, facilitate joint actions between national and local governments, and help channel investments.
Apply Sticks and Carrots
Pressure on the PKK could also be increased by cracking down on its international financing and propaganda infrastructure. To this end, Europe-based foundations and front-organizations acting on behalf of the PKK should be carefully vetted and shut down if it is shown that they support violence. The European Counter Terrorism Group, a body composed of the 25 EU member states, Norway and Switzerland, should take the lead to investigate illicit revenues. The UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, which was established to deny funding to terrorist activities, could also request that the EU and other member states suspected of hosting PKK front organizations report on efforts to cut off financing for the PKK. [l] Balancing practical concerns with free speech principles, the licenses for European-based media outlets inciting hatred or violence should be revoked.
Foster a Turkey-KRG Partnership
Turkey and the KRG will ultimately become indispensable partners. For now, they can reduce tensions by engaging, identifying common ground, and taking steps to build confidence. Turkey should stop demonizing Massoud Barzani, and open a direct channel for diplomacy by sending a special envoy to meet with him. The ground work for this meeting could be laid by Nechivan Barzani, the KRG Prime Minister, who recognizes the importance of cooperation with Turkey. The Counter-Terrorism Agreement between Turkey and Iraq can only work if the KRG is on board, and there are several specific steps that the KRG can take to help limit the PKK's logistics. It can replace PKK checkpoints around Qandil with its own, and reduce financial flows by interdicting funds reputedly transferred to the PKK by travelers arriving at the airport in Erbil. Makhmour Camp should be closed after Turkey offers assurance that its residents can return to Turkey without reprisal and activities of pro-PKK groups in Iraqi Kurdistan that condone violence (e.g. Democratic Solution Party). Economic ties are essential to fostering better relations, and Turkish companies should be offered preferential production sharing agreements to develop oil fields in Iraqi Kurdistan. In turn, Turkey can stimulate trade and investment by expediting transit procedures at the Harbur gate and opening more border crossings to Iraqi Kurdistan. The goal is to mesh Turkish-KRG financial interests and therefore highlight the benefits of cooperation over confrontation. Given close relations between the United States and the KRG, US officials are in a unique position to persuade Barzani that accommodation is in the KRG's interest and to broker these arrangements.
AKP – Justice and Development Party
CHP – Republican People's Party
DDR – Disarm, Demobilize and Reintegrate
DTP- Democratic Society Party
EU – European Union
FDI – Foreign Direct Investment
FTO – Foreign Terrorist Organization
GOI – Government of Iraq
HADEP – Kurdish Democratic Party
HEP – People's Labor Party
KADEK – Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress
KRG – Kurdistan Regional Government
MHP – National Action Party
MPs – Members of Parliament
NCAFP – National Committee on American Foreign Policy
NSC – National Security Council
PKK – Kurdistan Worker's Party
TGNA – Turkish Grand National Assembly
TGS – Turkish General Staff
TRC – Truth and Reconciliation Commission
UN – United Nations
US – United States
About the Author
David L. Phillips is project director of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Center for the Study of Human Rights. He has worked as a senior adviser to the US Department of State and the United Nations Secretariat. He has held academic positions as a visiting scholar at Harvard University's Center for Middle East Studies, executive director of Columbia University's International Conflict Resolution Program, director of the Program on Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding at the American University, and as a professor at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. He has also been executive director of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations' Center for Preventive Action, director of the European Centre for Common Ground, project director at the International Peace Research Institute of Oslo, and president of the Congressional Human Rights Foundation. Mr. Phillips has authored books and policy reports, as well as more than 100 articles in leading publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, and Foreign Affairs.
Methodology and Acknowledgements
The author has worked on Kurdish issues for almost 20 years. Since 1991, he has visited Turkey more than 30 times, including many fact-finding and field research trips to the Southeast of Turkey. The author thanks the Turkish scholars, business leaders, media representatives and parliamentarians whom he recently interviewed in Turkey (September 2007). He gratefully acknowledges assistance from Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which arranged meetings with legislators, as well as officials involved in foreign affairs, intelligence and security matters. The author also conducted interviews with senior representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi officials, including President Jalal Talabani. The author is grateful to nearly 20 Turkish and Western scholars and experts on the PKK who critiqued this report. (Note: The report draws on an upcoming book by the author – From Bullets to Ballots: Violent Muslim Movements in Transition (Transaction Press, Rutgers University).
[i] United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (28 September 2001).
[ii] The author first visited Diyarbakir in February 1992.
[iii] Party program of the PKK adopted at the Fifth Victory Congress, January 1995.
[iv] Dogu Ergil. "Suicide Terrorism in Turkey." Civil Wars, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Spring 2000). Pgs. 37-54.
[v] MYNET/Fact Sheet. September 6, 2005.
[vi] State Security Court Indictment of Abdullah Ocalan. Pg. 58.
[viii] The Spectator. 28 November-5 December, 1998.
[ix] Michael Radu. "The Rise and Fall of the PKK." Orbis, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Winter 2001). Pg. 47.
[x] Interview with intelligence officials from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. September 14, 2007.
[xi] Article 8 was adopted in 1991.
[xii] Ergil. "Suicide Terrorism in Turkey."
[xiii] Stephen Kinzer. "The Big Change." The New York Review of Books. January 12, 2006
[xiv] Turkish Human Rights Association, Annual Report 2004.
[xv] Human Rights Watch. World Report 2005.
[xvi] Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality. "Democratization in Turkey and the Kurdish Question." Report issued by Osman Baydemir, Mayor of Diyarbakir. September 1, 2005.
[xviii] Osman Baydemir, Mayor of Diyarbakir, and Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality. "Democratization in Turkey and the Kurdish Question." September 1, 2005.
[xix] Abdullah Ocalan. Declaration on the Democratic Solution of the Kurdish Question. Published by the Kurdistan Information Centre, Mesopotamian Publishers, London. 1999). Pg. 85.
[xx] Metin Munir. "Kurdish leader gains support for deal that will end military struggle." Financial Times. June 3, 1999. Pg. 2.
[xxi] Some Kurds believe that Ocalan is under the control of Turkish authorities, and that he is being manipulated to sustain the PKK to justify the state's efforts to subvert reforms and democratization.
[xxii] Interview by the author with a DTP Member of Palriament. September 13, 2007.
[xxiii] Dogu Ergil. "Strange but True." Today's Zaman. August 7, 2007.
[xxiv] Interview by the author with a DTP Member of Parliament. September 13, 2007.
[xxv] Article 14 of the 1982 constitution.
[xxvi] Speech by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. September 27, 2007.
[xxvii] Anatolian News Agency. February 18, 2005.
[xxviii] Hugh Pope of the International Crisis Group; Dogu Ergil. "Don't Worry Turkey." Research paper presented at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, DC. February 12, 2006.
[xxix] Turkish Daily News. "Yilmaz: the road to the EU passes through Diyarbakir." December 17, 1999.
[xxx] Stephen Kinzer. "The Big Change." The New York Review of Books. January 12, 2006
[xxxi] "The Big Change."
[xxxii] "Democratization in Turkey and the Kurdish Question."
[xxxiii] The Economist. "Peace be unto you." August 20, 2005.
[xxxiv] Scott Peterson. "The case of Orhan Pamuk is being watched as a test of political freedoms." Reuters. December 16, 2005.
[xxxv] Charges were brought under Article 301 of the Criminal Code.
[xxxvi] Turkish Daily News. "Sarkozy continues his unyielding opposition." June 10, 2007.
[xxxvii] Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Council on Foreign Relations.
[xxxviii] German Marshall Fund Survey 2007.
[xxxix] Interview with intelligence officials from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
[xl] Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Council on Foreign Relations.
[xli] Turkish Daily News. June 6, 2005.
[xlii] Liz Sly. "A Fragile stability on the border; Kurdish rebels threaten to draw regional players into Iraq." Chicago Tribune. July 30, 2007.
[xliii] Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Council on Foreign Relations.
[xliv] Robert D. Novak. "Bush's Turkish Gamble." The Washington Post. July 30, 2007.
[xlvi] Turkish Daily News. US Embassy Denies PKK meeting." September 12, 2007.
[xlvii] "Turkey's judiciary an obstacle on the EU path." Reuters. February 28, 2006.
[xlviii] Interview by the author with President of Iraq Jalal Talabani. September 28, 2007.
[xlix] Interview by the author with Hasan Cemal. September 12, 2007.
[l] United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373.
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June 01, 2009
The Obama administration's "responsible redeployment" from Iraq is made even more urgent by the requirements resulting from worsening conditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For redeployment to occur on scale and on schedule, the United States seeks an end-state in Iraq that is stable and at peace with its neighbors. Simmering sectarian violence is inevitable, but it will not break Iraq. However, ethnic conflict between Arabs and Kurds could escalate into a major conflagration with regional implications.
Findings and recommendations in this report – Confidence Building between Turks and Iraqi Kurds – draw on discussions during the Washington meeting of Turks and Iraqi Kurds on April 13-15, 2009, as well as information and views gathered during research and a recent trip by the author to Turkey and Iraq. Future meetings are anticipated in Istanbul and Erbil. The Istanbul meeting, planned for September 2009, will expand the core group of Turks and Iraqi Kurds and will include briefings to media representatives from Turkey and Iraq. Joint task forces are envisioned on (i) trade/investment, (ii) energy development/transport, and (iii) environmental/water issues. The task forces will identify areas for collaborative work integrating the interests of Turks and Iraqi Kurds. Participants agreed that a shared future between Turks and Iraqi Kurds is essential to mitigating conflict and ensuring peace and prosperity in the region.
To this end, the report assesses the views and interests of Iraqis, Iraqi Kurds, regional players and other major stakeholders as the basis for cooperation when interests overlap and preventing conflict when they diverge. Since interests are shaped by history, the report considers the history of Kurds in Turkey and in Iraq. The report also evaluates opportunities for collaboration, and flash-points for conflict escalation between Iraqis, as well as between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. While the region remains volatile, the report notes significant progress in Turkey-KRG relations as a result of constructive dialogue between officials from both sides over the past year.
The following recommendations are provided as the basis for further discussion between Turks and Iraqi Kurds:
· To promote Turkish trade and investment in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Habur Gate at Zakho should be upgraded on both sides of the border, transit procedures streamlined, and a second border crossing opened to reduce congestion. Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan should establish reciprocal trade promotion offices. Improved economic conditions will have the added benefit of moderating Kurds in Turkey.
· To foster cooperation between Turkey and the KRG on energy development and transport, the GOI and KRG should build on the recent arrangements enabling export of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to finalize national Hydrocarbons and Revenue Sharing Laws. Such progress would accelerate the production of Iraqi gas thereby enhancing the profitability of the Nabucco pipeline.
· To resolve peacefully the status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories, concerned parties should intensify efforts to overcome differences. The longer it takes, the more likely is communal violence. Though giving away Kirkuk is a red-line that no Kurdish politician can cross, there is still room to accommodate competing claims within the parameters of Article 140 in Iraq's 2005 constitution.
· To enhance governance and minority rights in Iraqi Kurdistan, the KRG should consult with its polity and then move quickly to adopt its draft constitution that includes a bill of rights and decentralization arrangements for local government. To protect and promote minority rights, the KRG should finance minority schools, ensure use of minority languages in public proceedings, and permit display of minority place names, signage, and symbols. Additionally, local security officers should reflect the ethnicity of the community they serve.
· To address the PKK's presence in Iraqi Kurdistan, the KRG should crack down on PKK logistics through more effective efforts to arrest senior commanders, interdict financing, and tighten checkpoints around Qandil, including mountain passes. Further integrating KRG representatives into the Iraqi delegation to the Trilateral Security Commission would more fully engage Kurdish officials in intelligence sharing.
· To diminish public support for the PKK by Kurds in Turkey, Ankara should take additional steps to recognize Kurdish identity by, for example, eliminating "Turkishness" as the basis for citizenship in the constitution. The PKK problem cannot be solved with security measures alone. The ultimate solution lies in Turkey's continued democratization and development, aswell as some amnesty arrangement for the PKK rank and file. Investments in job creation and social services would also help drain the swamp of public support.
· To ensure that the Obama administration is fully engaged, the United States should appoint a Special Envoy for Northern Iraqi and Regional Issues. The Special Envoy would help focus U.S. efforts to integrate the interrelated themes of security, democracy, and development, raise the profile of these problems, streamline the inter-agency process, complement efforts by the U.S. embassies in Baghdad and Ankara, and navigate the USG architecture for Iraq and Turkey.
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