Three misperceptions in international media about the Kurdish issue

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Three misperceptions in international media about the Kurdish issue

2018-02-09 06:31 GMT
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Fact-Checking Turkey gathered three points that were misrepresented in international media regarding the Kurdish issue 

Since Turkey started a military operation in Afrin to clear its border from terrorist elements including the PKK, its Syrian offshot the YPG and remaining DAESH remnants, a number of false claims have been made in various news articles. As Fact-Checking Turkey, we gathered three important points that are misleadingly stated in news stories regarding the Kurdish issue in Turkey.

CLAIM 1: Turkey pursues hardline policies on Kurds

Since the 2000s Turkey has undertaken a number of important reforms for its Kurdish community. In January 2009, the first state channel broadcasting in the Kurdish language was established. The ban on speaking Kurdish for prisoners during the visits was lifted and the opportunity to testify in court in the Kurdish language was introduced. Undergraduate and graduate programs about Kurdish language and the literature were opened at universities of in the Kurdish-majority southeastern Turkey, starting from the establishment of the Kurdology Institute within Mardin Artuklu University in 2013. Traffic signs were made bilingual, namely in Turkish and Kurdish in the city of Diyarbakir in 2016.
In addition to these developments, the government announced an “investment and encouragement plan” in order to compensate for the losses of the citizens who were badly affected by the PKK’s terror attacks during 2015 and 2016 in Turkey’s southeastern regions, particularly in Mardin, Diyarbakir, Sirnak and Hakkari.  In total, an amount of 323 million Turkish liras were paid for compensating the damages of the citizens affected by the PKK’s terror attacks. For a more detailed report of the improvement of Kurdish society’s situation and rights, please click here.
CLAIM 2: The peace process came to an end because of the Turkish government
Turkish government endeavored to end the uprising of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is a designated terror group in Turkey, the US and the EU, in a peaceful way by launching a “Peace Process”.  In order to achieve this goal, the government prepared the legal framework for granting amnesty to PKK militants and ensure their disarmament. Thus, the Turkish government allowed the return of some militants and dropped charges against them under the principle of “effective remorse”1. The first group of the militants returned to Turkey from the PKK’s armed camps in northern Iraq on 19 October 2009. The group was wearing their combat clothing and they announced they did not regret any of their activities. Still, they were released under the effective remorse law and the government proceeded with the Peace Process. Finally in April 2013, Turkey and the PKK entered into a de facto ceasefire. That was followed by a series of legal amendments introduced by the government on 30 September 2013 and called the “Democratization Package”. 

However, PKK militants and the pro-PKK politicians continued to act in contradiction with the spirit of the Peace Process. It announced that it had established the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H) to act as the PKK’s youth armed group in the urban centers. It also “founded its own courts”, “collected taxes” and abducted people including minors, in order to make them fight within their ranks. 

In addition to those practices, the threats to “end the process” were repeated on many occasions. Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), stated before the last general elections in Turkey that “if the AK Party gets stronger, the process will end”. PKK members and pro-PKK politicians continued to issue similar threats on many occasions, saying the process will be over if the HDP would not gain enough votes to be represented in the parliament, if the PYD lose control of the Syrian Kurdish enclave Kobane or if more concessions were not made “in a short time”.
Finally, the PKK broke the ceasefire in the summer of 2015. On the night of 22 July 2015, two police officers were killed by PKK militants while they were asleep inside their homes in the town of Ceylanpinar, Turkey. The PKK claimed the responsibility on the same day. Turkish jets bombed the PKK’s military camps in return and Cemil Bayik, one of the PKK leaders, called for arming and creating “liberated zones” in city centers. Thus, a two-year ceasefire that the Turkish government worked to secure despite a considerable pressure came to an end. PKK militants tried to create “liberated zones” inside several town centers like the Nusaybin, Cizre and in Sur districts of the city of Diyarbakir during the autumn 2015.
CLAIM 3: Kurdish politicians have been thrown out of politics
From the re-escalation of hostilities to today’s date, several members of the HDP were sentenced to prison terms. The arrests of these politicians have been perceived or presented by some international media as a political persecution of pro-Kurdish politicians. However, they were sentenced to prison terms because they supported the criminal activities of the PKK with thier words and actions. For instance, former HDP co-chair Figen Yuksekdag said in a party rally: “We depend on the YPG and the PYD” in reference to the PKK’s political and armed branches in Syria. Yuksekdag announced she “sees no problem” in announcing their support for the YPG, which is a designated terror group in Turkey. HDP parliamentarian Abdullah Zeydan threatened the Turkish government, saying “PKK is so powerful that it can drown all of you in its saliva”. 
There are many other incidents proving the members of the HDP provided material support for the acts of terror carried out by the PKK. On 23 March 2016, the head of the PKK’s youth wing was captured in HDP’s Ankara office. The police raided the office on a tip that a terrorist from a rural area arrived in the city. On 25 October 2015, 14 handmade bombs were found buried in the home garden of Halide Aktay, the co-chair of HDP’s Varto district organization. Halide Aktay and her husband were arrested afterwards. The co-leader of the HDP’s Edremit district, Recep Gultepe, was arrested after materials used in bomb making found in his car on 19 September 2015. To see other examples, please click here.
  • 1. The provision of the “effective remorse” was added in the Article 221/2 of the Turkish Penal Code on 1 June 2005 within the scope of the Peace Process in order to provide the return of the militants back to the civil life without being charged but with the condition that they had not partaken in any terror attacks.