Wednesday, 15 August 2012, 04:30 GMT
PKK must give up on guerrilla warfare

Syrian opposition fighters rest in a former primary school in the northern city of Aleppo, where rebels clashes with government forces on Wednesday./Bulent Kilic, AFP / Getty Images

Globe Editorial
By Baran Mohammad

In these tectonic changes, the Kurds, the largest nation without a state, are simultaneously facing both opportunities and challenges in order to realize their liberation and statehood.

It is almost a common perception that the geopolitics of the Middle East are now being reshaped with the advent of the so called "Arab Spring". It is also widely discussed by various observers that in such a reshaping, the political status of the Kurds in the region will be added into any formulae for a new Middle East.

The fundamental founding blocks of the Middle East that had mainly been laid down following the end of the First World War is now shattered. The process of such radical alterations of the region's geopolitics began with the collapse of the former Soviet Union. It has accelerated with the invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and reached a new peak with the Arab Spring. The totalitarian and one-party based regimes in the region began falling one after the other.

What is going on in the region is indeed tectonic changes and bound to create a new geopolitical map in the region. As the case of Syria sharply demonstrates, the reshaping of geopolitics of the Middle East will be at the cost of more bloodshed, human lives and sufferings.

In these tectonic changes, the Kurds, the largest nation without a state, are simultaneously facing both opportunities and challenges in order to realize their liberation and statehood. Success or failure to utilize this chaotic period for the self-determination of the Kurds mostly depends on the Kurdish political actors, policy, determination and political struggles. The biggest challenge for the Kurds is to develop a united, common, coherent and strategic position.

Lack of unity is the historical Achilles heel of the Kurds. As one political observer acutely noted "despite the common goal of independent statehood, the Kurds in various countries are hardly unified. It was the constant rivalries between tribes, clans, families, and villages that caused Kurdistan's partition among Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria in the first place" The Kurds have not yet understood the lessons of history, and their divisions are greater than the glue that can bind them together." (Dr. Jacques Neriah, Kurdistan: The Next Flashpoint Between Turkey, Iraq, and the Syrian Revolt)

A united position requires common objectives and principles. It is these common objectives and principles that are still lacking within the realm of Kurdish politics. A quick survey of Kurdish political discourse today indicates that there are various and sometimes conflicting approaches and methods towards the solution of Kurdish national question by the Kurdish political actors.

With the developments in Syria, the Kurdish question appeared to have a new international dimension and the Kurds need to develop a strategic policy without delay and clarify their national demands and objectives.

This huge task remains on the shoulder of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), political parties in the Kurdistan region, and the PKK and its affiliates in Syrian Kurdistan.

For its part, under the leadership of Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, KRG played a constructive role in Syrian Kurdistan. By bringing various political organizations of the Syrian Kurds to Erbil and constructively helping them to create a united position under the name of Kurdish National Council (KNC) with a perspective of a federal political system in post-Assad period.

PKK on the other hand has yet to play its constructive role, on the contrary, its discourse and practice escalates national discord and disunity. PKK's affiliated organization in west Kurdistan (Syria), Democratic Unity Party (PYD) does not respect the Erbil Accord signed in Erbil between the KNC and the People's Council of Western Kurdistan led by PYD.

PYD's unilateral action in west Kurdistan and its military wing, People's Protection Force known as YPG that attempt to control the region emptied by the Baath regime diminishes the legitimate demands of the Syrian Kurds for self-determination. Syrian Kurdistan cannot be ruled or left alone to PYD or its affiliated military organization. If the other Kurdish groups remain silent today it is only to prevent an internal Kurdish friction at such a crucial and sensitive period. However, the situation cannot be tolerated for much longer.

PKK must give up on its guerrilla warfare in north Kurdistan (Turkey). PKK's military struggle does not serve the Kurdish national struggle. A leading PKK leader, Duran Kalkan, claimed in an interview in ANF that escalated military struggle in Shemdinan (Hakkari) area is just a beginning and its main objective is to overthrow the ruling AKP government and establish a democratic Turkey.

Military struggle can be launched for the liberation of Kurdistan if there is no other means left, but democratization of a country does not need guerrilla warfare. PKK does not have any right to make Kurdistan a battle field for the sake of the democratization of Turkey. If the main objective of PKK is to democratize Turkey then PKK must open the way for Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in the Turkish Parliament to endeavor for such an aim.

Above all else, the Kurds today needs a popular democratic national movement. Should there be a need to recourse to military means then it should be the nation that fights for its national and democratic rights, not a few guerrillas as the "vanguards of the nation".

PKK must not only give up on its guerrilla warfare but it should also critically consider its political objectives. Should PKK hope to remain within the Kurdish national liberation movement then it is imperative for the PKK to alter its political objective from democratization of Turkey to self-determination of the Kurdish nation. It must begin with its discourse by classifying the Kurds not as a people but as a nation.

The Kurds, in any political and social sense, are a nation and thus entitled to national rights including establishing a national state of their own. Entitlement to this right is something and realizing this is something else.

While the Middle East, geopolitics is being reshaped, the Kurds must adjust their policies, strategies and movement towards an independent Kurdistan. It may be too early to guess but the Kurds do not have any other option but independence. Any political solution in any parts of Kurdistan less than independence would be temporary and would bound to terminate once the fundamental blocks of the Middle East are re-established.

Either there will be an independent Kurdistan in the new geopolitics of the region or there will be no Kurdish rights of any sort.