Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 26 April – 2 May 2013

NEWS
1. Erdogan hails Kurd rebel pullout as end of “dark era” for Turkey
2. Turkey says forces will take ‘care’ during Kurdish PKK rebels pullback

3. Parliamentary report to guide Kurdish settlement process
4. Panel Discusses Turkey’s Fragile Opportunity for Peace with the Kurds
5. Karayılan: We should be able to go to Imralı
6. Interview with Karayilan: ‘Our Withdrawal Comes When Struggle is at Peak’
7. Turkey’s New Anti-Terror Laws Do Not Benefit Kurds, Observers Say
8. The message of Abdullah Ocalan to the women congress
9. Justice key to Kurdish peace process
10. No winner in dirty war, Turkish PM says
11. Kurds honour brave Turkish writer Ismail Beshkchi
12. VIDEO: Blood for Oil: Fuel frenzy could spark war as Kurds seek secession from Iraq
13. Middle East Today: Iraq’s Escalation in Violence

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
14. The PKK’s withdrawal: An historic step
15. How did the Security Council hear the PKK statement?
16. As PKK Retreats From Turkey
17. Ankara’s new sphere of influence
18. From Turkey To Forming A Front Against Assad
19. Turkey’s Adventure of New Constitution
20. Kurdish solution?
21. PKK Waves Flag of Islam
22. Iraq after Hawija: Recovery or Relapse?
23. Is Iraq on the Cusp of Partition?
24. Iraq’s Kurds at the Eye of Regional Storm

REPORTS
25. BHRC Report on a pre-trial hearing in the case of 46 Turkish lawyers, Istanbul Heavy Penal Court, Koaeli Prison, Silivri,

STATEMENTS
26. EUTCC Statement: PKK’s Historical Move For Peace

 

NEWS

1. Erdogan hails Kurd rebel pullout as end of “dark era” for Turkey
27 April 2013 / Yahoo
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday hailed the planned withdrawal of Kurdish rebel fighters from Turkey as the end of a “dark era” but warned against potential sabotage of a historic peace process. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which seeks autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish southeast, on Thursday ordered its fighters in Turkey to begin withdrawing to its main base in the mountains of northern Iraq under a carefully choreographed peace plan. The withdrawal, due to begin on May 8, follows months of negotiations between Turkish intelligence officers and Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s jailed leader, to try to end hostilities after the bloodiest fighting in a decade erupted in June 2011. More than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have died in the conflict since 1984.

2. Turkey says forces will take ‘care’ during Kurdish PKK rebels pullback
26 April 2013 / eKurd
Turkey said Friday its forces would show “great care” during a pullback starting next month by Kurdish PKK rebels heading back to their bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, in a major step to end three decades of hostilities. “Our armed forces, and collective security forces will do their tasks with great care and attention,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on Turkish television, without elaborating further. Arinc did not provide any details on the government strategy during the withdrawal of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters from the Turkey’s Kurdish territory but instead called on everyone to “act with sensitivity” and avoid any action which could “sabotage” the peace process. The PKK’s retreat from Turkey will be closely watched because previous withdrawal attempts by the group has seen clashes between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK.

3. Parliamentary report to guide Kurdish settlement process
25 April 2013 / Today’s Zaman
A comprehensive report that was recently prepared by the Terrorism Subcommittee of the parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission will be one of the prime sources to serve as a roadmap along the settlement process, most politicians agree. Subcommittee head Naci Bostancı said the report includes the wishes, ideas and thoughts of people from different social strata and backgrounds who have lost loved ones to terrorism. The report, which is now available in print, will also be given to the 63 people who were selected as “wise people” to explain the settlement process to larger audiences.

4. Panel Discusses Turkey’s Fragile Opportunity for Peace with the Kurds
1 May 2013 / Rudaw
Turkey has a real opportunity to make peace with its large Kurdish minority, but real change will require commitment and is fraught with hurdles, speakers at a panel discussion said last week. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has declared a ceasefire in its three-decade conflict with Ankara, which has killed an estimated 40,000 people. It has said that its fighters will begin a phased withdrawal from Turkey to their mountain base in Iraqi Kurdistan on May 8. Panel moderator Susan Corke, Director for Eurasia Programs at Freedom House, said there is a real opportunity in Turkey with the current peace process, acknowledging that the way will probably be fragile. She added that real change will require real commitment on the part of Turkey’s leaders to fulfill the country’s democratic process, as there is a real danger that an authoritarian model could emerge.

5. Karayılan: We should be able to go to Imralı
27 April 2013 / ANF
Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) Executive Council president Murat Karayılan spoke to Turkish journalists who went to Kandil for the press conference KCK held on 25 April on the withdrawal of Kurdish guerrillas from Turkish borders. According to the report by Şirin Payzın from CNN Türk, Karayılan said that guerrilla forces will withdraw without conditions. According to Payzın, Karayılan said “what we have highlighted for the process of democratization and liberation to begin after the withdrawal are steps we consider necessary to ensure a permanent peace”. Karayılan listed these steps as the amendment of the law on political parties, the election threshold, the anti-terror law, abolition of the village-guard system and liberation of prisoners tried in the KCK case.

6. Interview with Karayilan: ‘Our Withdrawal Comes When Struggle is at Peak’
29 April 2013 / Rudaw
Last week Murat Karayilan, the military leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), announced that a phased withdrawal of fighters from Turkey will begin May 8.  He said the move was in line with the call last month by jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has been engaged in peace talks with Ankara to end a 30-year armed struggle that has resulted in an estimated 40,000 deaths.  In this interview with Rudaw Karayilan states that the PKK is not agreeing to peace out of weakness, but at a time when the group’s struggle is at its peak. He clarifies that the fighters will not be leaving their arms behind, and  will go to their base in  Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region with their guns. Karayilan warns that any attempt by Turkey to confront fighters or disrupt the withdrawal will mean a resumption of the conflict, and adds that the end goal is Ocalan’s release from his Turkish prison, at which time the rebels would be willing to discuss an end to their struggle and a permanent peace. Here is his full interview.

7. Turkey’s New Anti-Terror Laws Do Not Benefit Kurds, Observers Say
25 April 2013 / Rudaw
Important amendments this month to Turkey’s terror laws do not necessarily benefit the large minority Kurds, with whom the government is engaged in historic peace talks, and are meant to placate the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), observers say. Under the latest amendments, made on April 12, throwing rocks and bottles at law enforcement agencies and distributing propaganda will no longer be considered acts of terror. They also give judges greater leeway to suspend jail sentences. “Previously, a judge could only suspend a two-year prison term or convert the sentence to a fine. In the new package the judge can suspend even five-year sentences,” said Sidki Zilan, a Kurdish lawyer and politician.

8. The message of Abdullah Ocalan to the women congress
29 April 2013 / Rojhelat
With the slogan of “Organized women, democratic freedom and free life”, the second women council of Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) started by the speech made by the council member, Naile Bali in the sports hall of Ahmed Taner. Along with female members BDP thousands of women from all over Turkey, northern Kurdistan, Europe and other parts of Kurdistan participated in the congress. After the opening speech a display about Kurdish female warriors and martyrs was showed. “We are holding this congress to support Mr Abdullah Ocalan and his resistances in the past 14 years,” said Kibriye Evren one of the congress speakers. After Evren speech Melike Birtane the BDP MP in Turkish parliament, from Qers read the message of Kurdish national leader Abdullah Ocalan, in Kurdish language and later Kibriye Evren read it in Turkish.

9. Justice key to Kurdish peace process
30 April 2013 / Alliance for Kurdish Rights
Human Rights Watch has released a video that calls attention to the state killings and disappearances of Kurdish civilians in the 1990s committed by Turkey. It highlights the importance for immediate action to be taken in regard to the torture, disappearances and killings of Kurdish civilians that have never been investigated because there is a time limitation in the Turkish law on prosecution: A murder is timed out after 20 years which means the state-killings mentioned in the video that were committed in the 90s will not be able to be brought up in court in 2 or 3 years time. The time limitation is described as an obstacle to justice. Human Rights Watch underlines that there should not be time limitations on cases of human rights violation.

10. No winner in dirty war, Turkish PM says
1 May 2013 / Hurriyet
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned opposition parties objecting to the “peace process” that the government has launched, saying that there would be “no winner of a dirty war.”
“There is no loser of an honorable peace. Blood cannot be washed by blood,” Erdoğan said yesterday addressing his parliament group. The prime minister also warned against possible sabotage attempts aimed at hindering the peace process. “We are alert particularly against any sabotage, instigation. We are determined to proceed with the [peace] process, end violence, and make the spring permanent,” he said, adding that they hoped the peace process would not be reversed.

11. Kurds honour brave Turkish writer Ismail Beshkchi
28 April 2013 / Kurdistan Tribune
Ismail Beshkchi, the Turkish writer who has spent many years in Turkish jails, was honoured at a cultural evening in Erbil last night. “I am pleased to see the flag of Kurdistan and Peshmarga foces in free Kurdistan”, he told reporters. The renowned writer and sociology professor was given a medal by president Barzani in recognition of his long-term friendship with the Kurdish nation and its cause. He told the gathering that, while the twentieth century was a hundred years of darkness and tragedy for the Kurdish people, the twenty-first century offers them a shining horizon.

12. VIDEO: Blood for Oil: Fuel frenzy could spark war as Kurds seek secession from Iraq
2 May 2013 / Russia Today
As sectarian tensions rising across Iraq, Kurdish leaders pushing for independence despite strong objection from central government. The conflict’s been further fueled by the massive oil deposits in the country’s North which both sides wish to claim and exploit.

13. Middle East Today: Iraq’s Escalation in Violence
27 April 2013 / EA Worldview
Turkey: Erdogan Hails Withdrawal- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has hailed the planned withdrawal of fighters of the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from Turkey as the end of a “dark era” but warned against potential sabotage of the peace process. The PKK withdrawal is due to begin on 8 May. “The door is closing on a dark era. Turkey is changing its ill fortune and is entering a new phase,” Erdoğan told a business group in comments broadcast live by State television. He added: No one should try to pull this process in a different direction. We remain vigilant against sabotage, against provocations, but today we are much more hopeful, determined and optimistic.
Iraq: 10 Members of Security Forces Killed – Gunmen killed five army intelligence soldiers in two attacks west of Baghdad while others shot dead five anti-insurgent militiamen north of the capital on Saturday. One group of soldiers were driving near the site of a long-running anti-government protest when they were stopped by gunmen.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

14. The PKK’s withdrawal: An historic step
30 April 2013 / The Economist
REBELS of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will begin withdrawing from Turkey to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq on May 8th. The announcement made last week by Murat Karayilan, a top PKK commander in the field, heralded a strategic shift in the Kurds’ long-running struggle for greater rights. If all goes according to plan the PKK’s 29-year armed campaign for Kurdish independence (an aim that was later scaled down to autonomy) will have come to a close. It remains a big if but the potential rewards are huge. Peace with the Kurds would remove one of the biggest obstacles to democratic reform and, in theory, ease Turkey’s membership of the European Union. An end to the war that has cost over $300 billion and 40,000 lives would bolster Turkey’s regional ambitions. It would boost the political fortunes of Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured above), the prime minister, who is hoping to become the country’s first popularly elected president next year.

15. How did the Security Council hear the PKK statement?
27 April 2013 / Hurriyet
It appears that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has able public relations advisers, if their performance on the militant pullout statement on April 25 is considered. There were more than a hundred journalists there, mostly from Turkey, who had flocked to Arbil, where the headquarters of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq is, waiting for days to be taken to the PKK base in the Kandil Mountains for the press conference of Murat Karayılan as the acting chief. Karayılan’s press conference was expected in the morning hours. Turkish journalists there started to get anxious as hours passed without any news from Kandil. Some of them heard the word around that there were some UAVs hovering so the PKK was reluctant to hold the press conference.

16. As PKK Retreats From Turkey
26 April 2013 / Mesop
Öcalan has recognized the fact that Turkey’s democratic consolidation would be delayed as long as the PKK continued to hold arms. Turkey has been talking about the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) disarmament for months now. There is a Kurdish question in Turkey. And the most important issue the Kurdish question faces is the PKK. The PKK is an organization that gets bigger by feeding on the Kurdish question. Nevertheless, this observation does not take us to the conclusion that it was the Kurdish question that sustained the PKK. To the contrary, the PKK took arms in pursuit of its anachronistic ideological utopia. In the end it has become the factor that has not only prevented the nation from facing the Kurdish question at a deeper level, but also set Turkey’s democratic consolidation back at least 20 years. A Turkey without PKK violence would not have sustained a Kemalist tutelage regime that stood in front of Kurds gaining their most natural human rights for two decades.

17. Ankara’s new sphere of influence
1 May 2013 / Gulf News
A bizarre reconciliation is happening between Turkey and the Kurds. They have fought each other for decades in bitter wars, but now new forces in Iraq and Syria are driving them together. The increasing Shiite sectarianism of Nouri Al Maliki’s government in Iraq and a political recognition that Syria is collapsing with no obvious winners in sight have forced a major shift in Turkish policy. It is all the more surprising that this is happening just as the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq is behaving increasingly like the centre of an emerging independent Kurdistan, as it prepares and sends militiamen to fight to defend the Kurds in both Syria and Iran.

18. From Turkey To Forming A Front Against Assad
30 April 2013 / Sabah
Over 1,500 PKK members have departed Turkey for Syria and are fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army in order to protect the regions primarily in the north and northeast with a high Kurdish population. Amongst this new wave of militants are Kurdish women that are armed and prepared to fight against the Assad regime’s forces. An article published in the British daily The Times reports that according to Iraqi government sources, a high number of PKK members are departing Turkey’s southeast for Syria in order to protect Kurdish regions against the Assad regime. The article, entitled ‘Rebellion unveiled: Kurdish women join war on Assad’, specifically hones in on Kurdish female fighters and writes. “Bearded Islamists have been startled to find themselves fighting alongside a female unit led by Ruken, an AK47-carrying commander.”

19. Turkey’s Adventure of New Constitution
21 April 2013 / SETA
Turkey has been preoccupied with drafting a new Constitution for about two years. Having put the constitution-drafting process on its agenda, the parliament has envisaged completing the new Constitution at the end of 2012. However, the commission’s term of duty was first extended to March and then to May last week. Political parties are prolonging the drafting process, considering the possible outcome of leaving the table. But independent of the tight schedule, in virtue of the role attributed to politics since the 1990s it is almost impossible for the commission to draft a new constitution by consensus for real and structural reasons. The dynamics of the current political climate in Turkey, which make impossible to create a new Constitution based on consensus among political parties, can be discussed under three headings.

20. Kurdish solution?
30 April 2013 / Dawn
FOR our friends in Turkey much of the news in their neighbourhood is disturbing. In Syria, the conflict remains stalemated. Further Western intervention may flow from what the West sees as confirmed reports of the use of chemical weapons. Turkey as the main conduit for support to the Syrian insurgents will be seriously affected. Retaliating to Turkey’s support for the Syrian insurgents, Assad deliberately pulled his troops out of Kurdish-majority areas in Syria enabling the Kurds to not only exercise administrative control but also to grant Turkish Kurd insurgents safe haven. From Turkey’s perspective they are seeking greater autonomy or independence and are intent on making common cause with the Turkish Kurds.

21. PKK Waves Flag of Islam
1 May 2013 / The Majalla
Recent comments from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan puzzled groups that have long been allied with his party. In a letter that was read out to crowds gathered for the Kurdish New Year in Diyarbakır a few weeks ago, Öcalan emphasized the role of Islam as forming a strong bond between Kurds and Turks: “Turkish people who know ancient Anatolia as Turkey should know that their coexistence with Kurdish people dates back to a historical agreement of fraternity and solidarity under the flag of Islam.” His proclamations threw off some groups in the Turkish Left and the liberal Left, Armenians and Alevis that sympathized with the PKK and supported its progressive-secular agenda.

22. Iraq after Hawija: Recovery or Relapse?
26 April 2013 / International Crisis Group
The months-long standoff in Iraq between Sunni Arab protesters and the central government has begun a perilous, downward slide toward confrontation. The emergence of an arc of instability and conflict linking Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, fuelled by sectarianism and involving porous borders as well as cross-border alliances, represents a huge risk. Failure to integrate Sunni Arabs into a genuinely representative political system in Baghdad risks turning Iraq’s domestic crisis into a broader regional struggle.

23. Is Iraq on the Cusp of Partition?
30 April 2013 / Counterpunch
Soldiers are deserting a beleaguered Iraqi army as it struggles to keep its hold on the northern half of Iraq in the face of escalating hostility from Sunni Arabs and Kurds who dominate in the region. Around the oil city of Kirkuk Kurdish troops have advanced south to take over military positions abandoned by the army, while in Baghdad senior Iraqi politicians say that for the first time there is talk of partitioning the country. The current crisis was sparked on 23 April when the Iraqi army attacked a sit-in protest in the Sunni Arab town of Hawijah, killing at least 50 people and injuring 110. Outraged Sunni Arab protesters have since stepped up their demonstrations against the Shia-led government. Demonstrators are increasingly protected by armed men, some of whom are accused of dragging five military intelligence soldiers in civilian clothes from a car that came near a protest in Fallujah and killing them.

24. Iraq’s Kurds at the Eye of Regional Storm
2 May 2013 / International Herald Tribune
Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, has been on self-imposed gardening leave for the past few weeks, having moved from Baghdad to his native Kurdistan as part of a Kurdish boycott of the central government. Along with Khayrullah Hassan Babaker, the trade minister and fellow Kurd, and Kurdish members of the national Parliament, he left his post in the Iraqi capital as a signal of Kurdish discontent over deteriorating relations with the government of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, Iraq’s Shiite prime minister. With Mr. Maliki now confronting a renewal of sectarian conflict with the Sunni community after ordering a violent crackdown on Sunni protests this month, he appears to have decided it is time to patch up his differences with the autonomous Kurdish region.

REPORTS

25. BHRC Report on a pre-trial hearing in the case of 46 Turkish lawyers, Istanbul Heavy Penal Court, Koaeli Prison, Silivri, 30 April 2013.

Peace in Kurdistan campaign has been monitoring this case from the moment of the lawyers’ arrest in November 2011, and has organised delegations of international observers for each of the hearings so far. A complete summary of all UK monitoring of this trial can be found at here, including reports from trial observers, joint appeals, statements and meting reports. 

STATEMENTS

26. EUTCC Statement: PKK’s Historical Move For Peace, 26 April 2013.

 

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