THE ETA EXAMPLE

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“Spanish PM to visit Dublin for peace process help.” That’s the title of an article from the Washington Post on this week’s news that ETA has declared a permanent cease fire. ETA is lucky that it has a negotiating partner in the Spanish government:

Zapatero is keen not to let momentum slip after the ETA guerrillas’ declaration this week raised hopes of an end to their 38-year armed campaign, in which they have killed some 850 people.

On Friday, the first day of the truce, Zapatero said he would ask Spain’s parliament to approve plans to initiate contacts with ETA before the summer.

ETA has called ceasefires before, but this is the first it has described as “permanent” rather than “unlimited” or “partial.”

The article goes on to say that the Irish had been talking with the Basques for some four years. One of those doing the talking had this to say:

“ETA isn’t the problem,” he told Reuters in the Basque city of Bilbao. “The problem is you don’t have a culture of dialogue and therefore of democracy.

Now this makes me think: What if someone or some group had been talking with some seriousness to Kurds under Turkish-occupation for four years, especially with PKK, especially after 1999? What if the five-year unilateral ceasefire had been a time when Turkey allowed the Irish, for example, to act as mediators? Where would we be now? Here we have a country, Spain, who has suffered some 850 deaths as a result of ETA operations, yet it is willing to negotiate. Or we have Northern Ireland, where some 1800 died as a result of IRA/Sinn Fein operations, yet they managed to negotiate with the British.

The problem appears to be one in which the British government and the Spanish government seek peace, seek negotiation, seek to end grievances, with Spain willing to consider more autonomy for Spanish provinces, while the Basque province enjoys a number of rights that Kurds under Turkish occupation can only dream of. The Basque Country enjoys its own language rights, education and health care systems, police force and radio and TV stations. It enjoys one of the best economies in Europe, with the GDP per capita at 20.6% higher than the European average.

On top of all this, it became clear that Tony Blair, as well as the Norwegian foreign ministry facilitated and encouraged secret talks between the Zapatero government and ETA.

We are constantly reminded that ETA was considered by the US and the EU to be a “terrorist” organization, but that didn’t stop Northern Ireland, Britain and Norway from spending time and effort in order to get ETA and Spain to talk to each other.

Let Zubeyir Aydar go to Northern Ireland and seek to begin a process of negotiation for PKK. Then let Murat Karayilan go too. In the meantime, let someone from the Turkish government go to Spain to learn what negotiation is. If this doesn’t happen, what shall we make of the UN scheme for “Alliance of Civilizations,” which Spain and Turkey have recently agree to co-chair? What good will it be?

Am I dreaming? Is it not possible for these things to happen for Kurds? No, the time is ripe for negotiations to begin, as the recent conference on the Kurdish situation at Bilgi University shows, from someone who was there:

For two whole days I had the opportunity to meet politicians, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, DTP members, Öcalan’s relatives, PKK supporters and those opposed the PKK. The region’s heart beat at Bilgi University last weekend.

I talked with many people.

I can summarize the comments I found interesting as follows:

The state of the PKK: Even though it has lost its former strength, it is said that the PKK is still dominant in the region and knows everything that’s going on. It is being said that the PKK’s authority, rather than the official state representatives and security agencies, is obeyed in the region.

There were also many of those who said that the influence of anti-PKK Kurdish groups and movements other than the PKK (like Massoud Barzani) is increasing in the region.

The majority said that the organization’s prestige had increased as a result of what happened in Şemdinli and that for the first time in a while, money is pouring into the PKK and recruitment is on the rise.

Öcalan debated: In the past, Öcalan was the undisputed leader. What I noticed was the fact that Öcalan was being questioned more and more. For some, he is closely linked to the Turkish state and defends Turkish theses. However, no matter who says what, he is still an individual who has the ear of the community.

War incited: DTP leader Ahmet Türk summarized in a chat with us the general view of the region by saying: No one wants the PKK to lay down its arms. There are efforts to create a new state of affairs in the Middle East. Everyone is doing their best to ensure that the PKK in not pushed aside until the state of affairs is settled. This is the case for the Republic of Turkey, northern Iraq and other forces. They want the current situation to remain the same. This is why the organization is being harassed. This is why no measures that could alleviate the situation are being taken.

It was a very interesting assessment, and most of those who attended the conference agreed with him.

Society up in arms: All news coming from the Southeast had one similarity, and that was the people s perception that political leaders promise the world, but when it comes to action do nothing. Such conduct only creates more disappointment.

But I am not the only dreamer. Ahmet Turk, co-chair of DTP is also a dreamer and also sees the possibilities that the ETA example can offer Kurds:

Turk who evaluated permanent ceasefire by ETA in Spain said that similar process and its hardships are experienced in Turkey. Turk said that state by taking into consideration this troubles and problems should make steps and pointed out that after that only peaceful process can happen. Turk by taking attention that the state is in deadlock said that ” People says that if necessary we will die. What is important is demands of people. You can not ignore this demands.” Turk who reminded that Prime Minister in Spain had made call for peaceful process to develop and meetings were held, said that in the case that similar process is developed in Turkey, we will serve willingly.

Even until today, the Turkish state has done nothing to make a move toward negotiations and coming to terms with its historical behavior against Kurds. Even until today, the Turkish state is wasting time crying to the Americans about PKK, in particular this week to General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during his visit to Ankara.

Enough crying to the Americans, Ankara. Time for you to face up to your own responsibilities. Time for you to stop acting like a spoiled child and to act, instead, like a legitimate government.

If it’s good enough for Zapatero, the Basques, the Spaniards, Blair, Norway, Sinn Fein and ETA, it should be good enough for you.

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