Kurdish War: Can't We Just Talk


August 3, 2011: As the number of battlefield engagements with PKK fighters increases, Turkey is experiencing escalating political tensions with Kurdish activists. Turkish media are arguing that there is a growing threat of inter-ethnic fighting, between Turks and Kurds –and they mean street riots and possibly gang confrontations. The political polls confirm a growing divide between Turks and Kurds in Turkey. The Summer is usually the time when actual fighting between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish military increases. In the last fifteen days 20 Turkish soldiers have died in battles with PKK units, and that is big news. The government, led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), is considering expanding the role played by police gendarmes and special police counter-terror units in the war on the PKK.

August 2, 2011: A Turkish court sentenced a Kurdish politician to two years in jail. The politician was convicted of disseminating propaganda for the PKK. Kurds objected to the charges and object to the sentence.

July 30, 2011: Kurdish leader and poet Kemal Burkay returned to Turkey. He had been in exile for 31 years. Burkay said that he is interested in pursuing a political solution to Turkey’s Kurdish insurgency.

July 27, 2011: It is a minor diplomatic victory for Turkey, but a victory nonetheless. Azerbaijan declared the PKK to be a terrorist organization.

July 25, 2011: PKK fighters ambushed a Turkish unit in Mardin province (southeastern Turkey), and killed three soldiers.

July 21, 2011: The July 14 attack in Diyarbakir is becoming a political cause celebre. Government prosecutors have begun investigating the attack that left 13 Turkish soldiers and seven PKK gunmen dead, to determine if military officers were negligent. This has a political angle since the ruling AKP is engaged in a power struggle with senior military officers. The Turkish death toll is the highest since the infamous October 2008 attack on an outpost near the Iraqi border left 17 Turkish soldiers dead.

July 20, 2011: Jailed PKK senior commander Abdullah Apo Ocalan declared that he is the only person who can end the Kurdish war. Ocalan, according to his lawyers, said that no one else has the political influence to make PKK fighters drop their weapons. He also warned that the unless the AKP’s stalled peace process gets back on track, frustrations among Turkish Kurds will increase and that frustration will lead to further violence.

July 19, 2011: Kurdish leaders called for more political autonomy and regional self-governance in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeastern provinces. The appeal follows a declaration of autonomy made by the Kurdish Democratic Society Congress earlier in the month. According to polls, reaction to the declaration by ethnic Turks has been largely negative. Another poll suggested ethnic Kurds were very divided as to the significance and political utility of the declaration.

July 17, 2011: The Turkish military announced that it was conducting a major offensive operation in southeastern Turkey in response to the July 14 attack by PKK rebels. That attack left 13 Turkish soldiers dead. The military announcement said that the new operation is employing elite military units. This usually means special forces units (commandos) or highly-trained Turkish mountain infantry units (light infantry units especially trained for operating at high altitudes and in mountain terrain).The units are deploying into what is described as remote areas where the PKK has base camps.



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