On July 11, the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the PKK, issued a written statement to unilaterally end the two-year cease-fire citing public projects, including the construction of dams, in southeastern Turkey. Several days later, a member of the KCK Executive Committee called on PKK militants to take up arms against the Turkish state. Finally, PKK militants killed two civilians and two police officers under the pretext of retaliating against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) suicide attack on July 20. Four days later, Turkish F-16s started launching airstrikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq in an effort to push the organization to reinstate the cease-fire and withdraw of armed militants from Turkey as a first step toward disarmament. More than a few international media outlets, however, would like you to believe that the Turkish government, specifically President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, broke the cease-fire in order to help the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) reclaim its parliamentary majority. Although there is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim, more than a few reporters conveniently ignored the basic principles of journalism in order to pass off full-blown conspiracy theories as news.
It all began in 2011 when the Turkish government launched the Kurdish reconciliation process to sponsor public projects in the southeast and promote broader cultural rights for the Kurdish community. Despite paying lip service to the prospect of peace, the PKK seized the opportunity to stockpile weapons, recruit new members and draw out plans for future attacks, which enabled the organization, whose withdrawal from Turkey has been pending for two years, to perpetrate attacks with relative ease. Considering that the vast majority of Turkey’s Kurds continue to support the disarmament talks, it should be quite clear that the PKK not only disagrees with, but also ignores the demands of millions of Kurds for peace.
Believing that anyone with a basic sense of time can figure out that the PKK shot first, let us offer an often ignored yet quite crucial question: What exactly does the PKK aim to accomplish through violence? The government has already taken steps to promote Kurds’ cultural rights by forcing the authorities to deal with the Kurdish question through dialogue and democratization as opposed to violence. The fact that international journalists are too busy with softball interviews for the record does not relieve the PKK leadership of their responsibility to explain, without resorting to conspiracy theories, why they thought it was a good idea to turn their back on peace and started walking around guns blazing. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has neither been able to distance itself from terrorism and make a genuine effort to push for the PKK’s disarmament.
The real reason behind the PKK’s most recent attacks has been the understanding that they can translate the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) territorial gains in northern Syria and international popularity into political momentum in Turkey. Moving forward, the PKK leadership aims to expand the conflict zone into residential areas and town centers in order to promote violence among the general population. In other words, the organization seeks to trigger an ethnic conflict, akin to the sectarian tensions across the Middle East, which will be fought at the grassroots level.
Daily Sabah believes that the rising tide of violence takes a disproportionate toll on the Kurdish community. Not only are many Kurds affected by terrorist attacks in their vicinity but the organization itself not infrequently launches direct attacks against Kurdish members of the security forces and civilians. In order to promote peace and stability in Turkey, bridging the development gap between the country’s various parts remains a must. The PKK, as such, must reinstate the cease-fire without further delay in order to continue negotiations with Turkish authorities and find meaningful alternatives to violence.
For weeks, the media and the international community have given the PKK a free pass citing the organization’s role in fighting ISIS. Another serious problem with the media coverage is that major news outlets tend to present Turkey’s ongoing military effort as a war against the Kurdish people, which simply does not reflect the truth. Excited by the PYD’s advances against ISIS in Syria, many observers seem to have forgotten that not only Turkey, but also the United States and the European Union designate the PKK as a terrorist organization. In the age of global terrorism, there is no room to play favorites.