Has Syria’s horror spawned peace for Kurds in Turkey?
As Britain and France consider throwing direct Western weaponry into the cauldron that is the civil war in Syria, there could be one small glimmer of hope flickering along one of that country’s borders.
One of the most affected historic, and yet under-reported, conflicts in the regions remains the struggle for Kurdish rights. It is a struggle that affects Kurds in Syria itself, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
The bloodiest evidence of it has been seen in Turkey. For years the Turkish military and the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK, the militant wing of Kurdish nationalism, have been in open war. Until now, decades of blood letting on both sides have seen little will to find peace.
Last Wednesday the PKK freed eight Turkish soldiers and civil servants. It was part of a quiet and continuing peace process with the Turkish government.
Last December the Turkish authorities revealed that they are talking to the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan. The talks take place on the island of Imrali where Ocalan is serving a life sentence.
The war they are trying to resolve is located perilously close to the Syrian border, and as with all the borders of countries in that region with large Kurdish populations, Kurds move backwards and forwards over them.
40,000 people have died in Turkey’s Kurdish conflict down the years. When Ocalan was arrested in 1999, the PKK’s ambition was an independent state.
Today their hope is for full autonomy and rights. Such conditions have been all but achieved in Iraq as an unintended consequence of the American lead overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
I’m told by sources in the region that Ocalan has to declare a ceasefire this Thursday 21st March for the process to start to come to fruition. In return Turkey is supposed to move toward setting up a truth and reconciliation process. Constitutional and communal rights would be in play in return for a withdrawal from Turkish territory by PKK fighters by August of this year.
There is much potential for failure, but if it happens, Turkey will be vastly strengthened and the Kurds themselves greatly empowered.
Syria’s horror may well have spawned the urgent environment in which a once unthinkable peace for the Kurds within the Turkish takes hold.
Jonathan Miller blogs: Will increased UK aid prolong Syria’s agony?