Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 10 – 16 May 2013

NEWS
1. First PKK Group Completes Withdrawal, Everyone Excited
2. First Kurd rebels reach Iraq under Turkey truce
3. Are PKK Fighters Moving to Syria?
4. Preparations for Kurdish conference intensify
5. Intellectuals organize conference for peace
6. Turkey Blasts Kill dozens, Scores Injured
7. Set Journalists Free in Turkey: EFJ campaign update
8. Grup Yorum member given six-year prison sentence
9. Erdoğan to Brief Obama on Exxon’s Latest Play
10. Turkey signs Exxon Mobil agreement in Iraqi Kurdish

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
11. Turkish Kurdish Leader: PKK’s Exit Alone Won’t Bring Peace
12. PKK’s Withdrawal From Turkey Shows Peace Process On Track
13. The Process in Turkey, by Sebahat Tuncel
14. VIDEO: Peace at the end of a long PKK struggle?
15. Turkey’s Unrealized Dream: Petroleum
16. Turkey: Opportunities And Risks Ahead
17. PKK mothers want to be reunited with children
18. Turkey Kurd Peace: What Lies Beneath Turkey’s Peace With Kurdish Rebels?
19. Time for an Independent Kurdistan
20. INSIGHT: Mr. Erdogan Goes to Washington
21. Great Expectations: a story by the PKK
22. The Game Changer: Syria, Iran, and Kurdish Independence
23. Turkey and Syria — the Boiling Pot and Its Implications
24. Why Massoud Barzani of Kurdistan is Part of the Failure of US Policy in the Middle
East
25. Iran Has Reasons to Spoil PKK-Turkey Peace Process

REPORTS
26. ‘The Kurdish Question in Turkey’: Queen’s University Belfast Conference Report

NEWS

1. First PKK Group Completes Withdrawal, Everyone Excited
14 May 2013 / Bianet
13 PKK guerrillas who headed from Turkey’s Beytüşşebap district arrived at Heror in Metina region, South Kurdistan at 6:25 am local time. The group became the first to complete withdrawal from Turkey in accordance with the peace process between Turkish state and PKK. They were received by a group of journalists and guerrillas. Both the arriving and receiving guerrillas seemed so excited, especially women hugging each other in longing. Following a ceremony held by 30 receiving guerrillas, a press conference was held where PKK guerillas said they trusted their leader [Abdullah Öcalan] and not the Turkish state regarding the withdrawal process.  “As Öcalan pointed out, there is a need for peace process. The basis of peace is the very basis of humanity as well,” the press statement said.

2. First Kurd rebels reach Iraq under Turkey truce
15 May 2013 / Daily Star
A first group of Kurdish fighters pulling out of Turkey under a truce arrived in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq Tuesday to handshakes and embraces after a gruelling weeklong journey. But the Iraqi government slammed the movement of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters into its territory as a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty and said it would complain to the U.N. Security Council. “We are the first group to reach the safe area in Iraq,” said Jagar, leader of the group of PKK fighters that comprised nine men and six women. The fighters, who arrived in the Harur area of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region at about 6 a.m., were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, light machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

3. Are PKK Fighters Moving to Syria?
10 May 2013 / Al Monitor
The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, believes the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not really see the risks its policies are posing for the country’s unity and security. “While the crisis is deepening in our neighboring country, Syria, and the Kurdish groups in Syria’s north gain power, the AKP’s decision to start negotiations with the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] gives the impression that there is also a set of regional calculations on the agenda,” he said today, May 10, at a media event entitled “CHP’s Proposal and Priorities for Democracy, Rule of Law and Societal Peace.” Kilicdaroglu listed 19 reasons why CHP keeps its distance from the AKP’s negotiations with the PKK.

4. Preparations for Kurdish conference intensify
10 May 2013 / ANF
Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK, Kurdish Communities Union) is continuing its talks with Kurdish parties in Federal Kurdistan Region in the scope of preparations for the Kurdish National Conference. The KCK meetings with parties and organizations in Federal Kurdistan Region mainly focus on the organization of a Kurdish national conference and normalization of the relation between the sides involved. The meetings of KCK, open to the general public, are taking place following the historic call Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan made on 21 March, the truce KCK called afterwards and the withdrawal of Kurdish guerrillas from Turkish borders as of 8 May.

5. Intellectuals organize conference for peace
16 May 2013 / ANF
Writer Murathan Mungan, Prof. Gencay Gürsoy and HDK (People’s Democratic Congress) executive council member Bircan Yorulmaz held a press conference on the Conference for Democracy and Peace to take place in Ankara on 25-26 May. The conference has been organized by a group of intellectuals, academics, writers and artists including Vedat Türkali, Murathan Mungan, Orhan Pamuk, Rakel Dink, Yaşar Kemal, Tarık Ziya Ekinci,  Prof. Yakın Ertürk, Prof. Ioanna Kuçuradi, Prof. Gençay Gürsoy, Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Arif Sağ. Speaking on behalf of the organizers, HDK Executive Council Member Bircan Yorulmaz invited all different circles, cultural and religious groups, intellectuals, unionists, writers, academics, political parties, NGOs and associations in Turkey to the conference in Ankara.

6. Turkey Blasts Kill dozens, Scores Injured
12 May 2013 / Rudaw
Kurdistan Region – More than 43 people were killed and scores injured as two deadly explosions hit the Turkish city of Reyhanli near the Syrian border on Saturday. The bombs went off outside the town hall and a post office. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said that those responsible had possible links to the Syrian regime. “We have to a great extent completed our work toward identifying the assailants,” he told reporters.  “We have established that the organization and assailants have links to the pro-regime intelligence organization.” Arinc also rejected that Syrian opposition groups or refugees based inside Turkey had anything to do with the twin explosions. “The aim behind this explosion is to cut the trust between the Syrian opposition, Syrian refugees and the people of Hattay region where they are settled.”

7. Set Journalists Free in Turkey: EFJ campaign update
14 May 2013 / Peace in Kurdistan campaign
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) pursues its international campaign to Set Free Journalists in Turkey. Please find below the latest news on the matter: the last week has been eventful in Turkey with the clashes on May day, the many activities focusing on Turkey on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May as well as the latest developments in the KCK and Ergenekon cases.

8. Grup Yorum member given six-year prison sentence
16 May 2013 / Todays Zaman
Six people, including a member of the band Grup Yorum, were sentenced on Thursday to six years of prison for aiding and abetting a terrorist organization. Six suspects, Grup Yorum member Seçkin Taygun Aydoğan, Eser Morsümbül, Cemray Baş, Gürkan Türkoğlu, Melis Ciddioğlu and Hazal Kaya, were accused of abetting the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), a terrorist organization that has carried out a number of attacks in Turkey, holding illegal protests, damaging state property and resisting security forces.

9. Erdoğan to Brief Obama on Exxon’s Latest Play
16 May 2013 /Huffington Post UK
At the airport moment before boarding the plane bound to the US, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced that Turkey has agreed a deal with the Kurdish regional Government (KRG) and Exxonmobil for oil and gas exploration in Kurdistan region of Iraq. The PM only made a brief statement but confirmed months’ long speculations about the game changing deal. The deal could involve more than half a dozen blocks which will be deifying Baghdad and against the wishes of the White House The Obama administration has so far sided with the central Iraqi government and expressed their concerns about a Kurdish -Turkish oil deal. The White House have also warned American oil companies about the dangers of doing business in Kurdistan, which has fallen on deaf ears and the two of largest US oil companies -Exxon and Chevron- have entered into contracts with the KRG.

10. Turkey signs Exxon Mobil agreement in Iraqi Kurdish
15 May 2013 / World Bulletin
Turkey signed an agreement with the U.S. company Exxon Mobil on oil exploration in the territory of the Kurdish autonomy of Iraq Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying. According to Erdogan, during his visit to the U.S. he will discuss details of this agreement with the country’s authorities. “Turkey’s activity in the territory of the Kurdish autonomy of Iraq is quite normal, as Iraq is our neighbor, and not only us, but also Baghdad will benefit from joint projects,” Erdogan said. Relations between the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq and Baghdad deteriorated in October 2011 after US-based Exxon Mobil received permission from the Kurdish authorities on the exploration and production of oil in this Iraqi region. Baghdad considered the deal illegal and warned the company that if it did not abandon the agreement with the Kurds, its deals with the central Iraqi government may be revised.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

11. Turkish Kurdish Leader: PKK’s Exit Alone Won’t Bring Peace
28 April 2013 / Al Monitor
Taraf’s Nese Duzel interviewed Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chairman of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). The interview was published in two installments April 22-23. Below are excerpts from the interview:
Taraf:  Has the first phase of the three-phase peace process started yet?
Demirtas:  No, it hasn’t. The PKK has only declared a cease-fire. For the first phase to begin, the withdrawal of the PKK has to start. At the moment, there are preparations underway for the first phase.
Taraf:  Is the PKK ready for withdrawal?
Demirtas:  When we visited Kandil [the PKK’s military command base in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region], we noted that they have many concerns. More than 500 PKK guerrillas were killed during [the] 1999 withdrawal, although there was a cease-fire declaration. Plus, there is distrust.

12. PKK’s Withdrawal From Turkey Shows Peace Process On Track
10 May 2013 / Al Monitor
The speech by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the Turkish parliament’s main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party [CHP], on May 7 to his party’s members of the parliament included tempestuous references to the peace process between the Turkish government and the PKK, but also had certain elements of truth. I am quoting from the May 8 edition of the daily Milliyet: “I repeatedly asked [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, ‘Why aren’t you talking?’ We are learning the facts from AKP’s [the ruling Justice and Development Party] spokesman at Kandil [the PKK command base in northern Iraq]. [Bulent] Arinc may be the government spokesman but they now also have a spokesman abroad. I am asking if what Karayilan said is true or not? We know he is telling the truth. Why should he lie? He says he was resolute and he [Erdogan] buckled  under the presence of guns. What else can he [Karayilan] say?”

13. The Process in Turkey, by Sebahat Tuncel
13 May 2013 / Jadaliyya
In early 2013, a critical process is unfolding regarding the solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey. The success of this process—that is, the protection of Kurdish people’s collective rights through the making of constitutional and legal amendments—is fundamental to ending the war which has been waged for thirty years in Turkey. These developments in Turkey are not independent from developments taking place in the rest of the Middle East. A historic process is unfolding regarding the Kurdish problem, which has been left unresolved for the last two hundred years in the Middle East. The Kurdish people, whose geography has been torn into four pieces, and who have been struggling against the oppressive politics of the states of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, are very close to winning their struggle for freedom, equality, and democracy in the Middle East.

14. VIDEO: Peace at the end of a long PKK struggle?
9 May 2013 / Inside Story, Al Jazeera
As Kurdish fighters withdraw from Turkey, we discuss what impact it will have on domestic and regional stability. Inside Story, with presenter Ghida Fakhry, discusses with guests: Akif Wan, the UK representative of the Kurdistan National Congress; Barcin Yinac, editor of Hurriyet Daily News; and Fadi Hakura, an associate fellow at Chatham House.

15. Turkey’s Unrealized Dream: Petroleum
11 May 2013 / Centre for Policy Analysis and Research on Turkey
Turkey is an energy poor country. It could produce only the 12% of the 20 million ton crude oil it consumed in 2011. As for natural gas, its situation is even more desperate: it had to import almost all of the 44 billion m³ natural gas it consumed in 2011, the amount it could produce was only 800 million m³.Naturally, the bill of country’s energy import is also too high: 54 billion dollars for 2011. The picture we get when we take a closer look at what this number means is: with exports of 135 billion dollars in 2011 and imports of 241 billion dollars, more than one fifth of the country’s total import is consisted by energy, and almost the half of the income earned from export is spent on this. But the main element that makes this serious foreign trade imbalance more alarming is that the increase in energy import, both in quantity and price, raises the increase of total export and import.

16. Turkey: Opportunities And Risks Ahead
9 May 2013 / Alon Ben-Meir
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington on May 16 comes at a pivotal time when the Middle East is riddled with extraordinary conflicts that have the potential of exploding into a regional war. The time is also ripe for creating a geopolitical realignment that could eventually usher in stability and progress. Turkey can and in fact should play a constructive role, provided that the Erdogan government takes a hard look at what the opportunities are to contribute to building a structure of peace and stability. The Erdogan government, however, should also consider the risks entailed should it remain stuck in grandiose old thinking.

17. PKK mothers want to be reunited with children
14 May 2013 / Al Jazeera
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has begun the withdrawal of its fighters from Turkish territory. In the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, many mothers lost their children during the fighting, and most are still living in the mountain camps. The mothers here all hope that the withdrawal will bring their children safely home. Despite being in jail, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is playing a major role in negotiating the withdrawal. For some he is a “freedom fighter”, for others a “terrorist”, but here in southeastern Turkey, the mustachioed PKK leader  is considered a “hero” by many Kurds. This is the place where the Kurdish leader founded his movement 29 years ago.

18. Turkey Kurd Peace: What Lies Beneath Turkey’s Peace With Kurdish Rebels?
13 May 2013 / Policymic
At long last, it’s peacetime in Turkey. The 30-year-old armed conflict between the Turkish state and the armed Kurdish Workers’ Party, a rebel group better known as the PKK, is taking a new turn as the rebels withdrew from Turkey and headed into Northern Iraq on May 8. It marks an end to a violent era that has shed around 40,000 lives since the rebel movement launched its first attack in a small province in the Southeast of Turkey in 1984. But several lingering, contentious issues must be resolved before peace can truly be declared. PKK Commander Murat Karayilan publicly announced in a press conference late April at his base in Qandil, in Northern Iraq, that the rebels’ withdrawal would be the first step of the peace process. 

19. Time for an Independent Kurdistan
10 May 2013 / The American
An independent Kurdistan is now more feasible than ever. The United States should seize this historic opportunity to support a strong ally in the Middle East – and one of the world’s most prominent stateless peoples. Recent events inside Iraq and Syria have made the moral and strategic case for an independent Kurdistan stronger than ever. Likewise, circumstances have shifted such that Turkish acceptance of a peaceful Kurdish state is increasingly evident. The United States would be wise to seize this historic opportunity and lend its diplomatic weight to the Kurdish cause. As Iraq heads toward an uncertain future, potentially under Iranian influence, a newly independent Kurdistan would overnight become one of the better U.S. allies in the Middle East. The country would not just be a strong partner on official levels, like Jordan, but on popular levels too, not unlike the U.S. special relationship with Israel. The affection that Iraqi Kurds have for America as a liberator and friend is well documented.

20. INSIGHT: Mr. Erdogan Goes to Washington
11 May 2013 / Middle East Voices
By Steven A. Cook, Council on Foreign Relations. In what the Turkish press is building up to be a “historic” trip, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be visiting Washington next week.  Much has changed since he was last here in December 2009.  In particular, Turkey’s position in the region has, despite its strong economic performance and rising diplomatic stature, deteriorated markedly:  Iraq is teetering on the brink of another round of civil war; Iran’s nuclear program has proceeded apace; Turkey’s ally in Libya, Muammar Kadhafi is dead; and Bashar al-Assad, in whom the prime minister invested so much time, has killed somewhere between 70 and 80 thousand of his own people and has made millions of others refugees.  The only recent geo-political bright spot has been Israel’s apology for the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.  That is not saying much given that bilateral ties between Turkey and Israel are likely to remain strained.

21. Great Expectations: a story by the PKK
11 May 2013 / Al Arabiya
Have you ever heard a story so good, it couldn’t possibly be true? Perhaps it was a story about a fish so big, it flipped over the boat. Or perhaps it was a story about a woman so beautiful, the clocks stopped as she walked by. Of course these stories are entertaining, so much so in fact, I’d like to tell you one of my own. Imagine a story about the PKK militants, who after 30 years of inflicting the worst kinds of suffering on the people of Turkey, taking 60,000 innocent lives, are turning in their weapons and walking away and everyone was now going to live happily ever after. This IS for a nice story of course, but would you really believe me? The greatest part about the tale I just related to you is, it might in fact, actually be true.

22. The Game Changer: Syria, Iran, and Kurdish Independence
May – June / World Affairs
Before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government was reelected in July 2007, Erdogan made a calculated decision to shift his foreign-policy focus away from his NATO allies in Europe, where Turkey’s European Union membership application had been long stalled. He cast his glance eastward, toward the Middle East, with the intention of establishing himself as the region’s preeminent leader and positioning Turkey as the indispensible link between west and east. In April of that  year, Erdogan visited Damascus, where he called upon Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. By all accounts, the two leaders became fast friends. A few months later, the two vacationed together in Bodrum, a beautiful vacation hot spot on Turkey’s Aegean Sea coast, where they were joined by their first ladies, Asma and Emine, who also appeared friendly.

23. Turkey and Syria — the Boiling Pot and Its Implications
13 May 2013 / Huffington Post
Reyhanli is a town on the Turkish side of the border with Syria. Nothing special to write about this sleepy coastal town, until two days ago that is. Out of the blue, two car bombs exploded there, leaving a trail of blood and misery with 43 innocent civilians dead. The Turkish government, judging by its official communiqué, had no hesitation as to putting the blame squarely on the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. The Syrians were quick to deny it, but Syrian announcements of any kind do not seem to have any stock these days with the government of Tayyip Erdoghan in Ankara; which, like Israel, but contrary to the U.S., was adamant in blaming Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people.

24. Why Massoud Barzani of Kurdistan is Part of the Failure of US Policy in the Middle East
13 May 2013 / Foreign Policy Journal
In the aftermath of the Iraq War, the US appointed two Kurdish leaders and several Arab leaders to govern the troubled and divided nation. Once again, the Kurdish people were exploited, this time by US sanctioned occupiers who largely ignored the welfare of the Kurdish people and self-appropriated billions of dollars of national wealth to increase their own power and prosperity. While the authoritative presence of hundreds of thousands of US government troops endorsed these leaders, the Kurdish people’s wishes were suppressed and their best interests were disregarded.

25. Iran Has Reasons to Spoil PKK-Turkey Peace Process
1 May 2013 / Al Monitor
On April 25, rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) announced during a media conference in the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq that they would start to withdraw from Turkey on May 8. There are indications that this process could isolate Iran and possibly end a cease-fire between the PKK’s Iranian offshoot and Iranian forces. While the media conference was being held, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was holding a two-day drill called “Toward Jerusalem” in the province of West Azerbaijan (April 25-26). Two weeks before, there was a clash in the same province between Kurdish rebels and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in city of Maku, near the Turkish border. The Kurdish news agency Firat claimed that more than 176 Kurds were arrested in large campaigns.

REPORTS

26. ‘The Kurdish Question in Turkey’: Queen’s University Belfast Conference Report, 16 May 2013.

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