by apogeeculture, 25 September 2011
Since the ‘Oslo 5’ audio leak (Sept 13th) of the meeting between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)/Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK)* leaders Sabri Ok, Mustafa Karasu, Zubeyir Aydar, former Turkish Intelligence Oranisation (MIT) Deputy Undersecretary Afet Güneş and Undersecretary of the Prime Ministry at the time and current MIT head Hakan Fidan, the public opinion constructors of Turkey have been hard at work trying to make sense of the 47 minute recording. Who recorded it? Who leaked it? When and where was it recorded? Why was it leaked? Who will benefit? The questions and answers continue coming, hard and fast. But let’s first rewind the tape to a few months earlier.
Neither the PKK/KCK nor the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rejected the meeting(s), and how could they? The PKK/KCK had already hinted on several occasions that they were meeting with the state directly and not just through imprisoned PKK/KCK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who had been conducting meetings with a state committee since 2010. The AKP accepted the meetings with Öcalan, but made the distinction that it was ‘the state’ that was conducting these meetings and not ‘the government.’ This was understandable during the run-up to the 2011 general election as the opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) began accusing the AKP of treason and collaboration with the PKK, which if it had stuck might have meant a loss of votes for the AKP amongst its nationalist-conservative support. In reflex the AKP even took its rhetoric as far as claiming that if they had been in power in 1999, when Abdullah Öcalan was caught and handed over to Turkey, they would have carried out the capital punishment, which the MHP, who had been in a coalition government at the time, hadn’t done. This threatening rhetoric caused consternation amongst the Kurdish community and Kurdish politics and Öcalan continued his wary approach regarding the meetings at Imrali, saying that he wasn’t sure if the AKP wanted a democratic resolution or wanted to eliminate the PKK/KCK by using him. Eventually he stated that the AKP had not accepted the three protocols drawn up during negotiations and that the PKK and the state were exploiting him and not doing what was needed of them for a peaceful solution. This was on July 27th 2011; Öcalan hasn’t been seen by lawyers or family since then, though he has the right to one hour and half hour weekly meetings with lawyers and family members respectively.
Initially discussion around the leak centred on who could have leaked it and why. Because the leak first appeared on the Dicle News Agency (DIHA) website, which is ‘close’ to Kurdish politics, with the title ‘the hidden face of meetings will ruin Erdoğan,’ fingers pointed to the Kurdish side and PKK. The first reaction was that the PKK had done this to weaken the hand of the AKP before the Turkish military’s cross-border operation into South Kurdistan (North Iraq.) However a few hours after the leak was posted on their site DIHA announced that they had been hacked and the audio recording put on the site without their permission. Then the recording appeared on Vimeo and other sites as well, which it could have been uploaded on initially. Was DIHA targeted because of their proximity to the Kurdish side? It seems likely and well calculated because the initial response by the parties that could have shown an adverse reaction didn’t. The MHP perceived it as trying to prevent the cross-border operation and declared that this should not deter the AKP from military measures. The CHP were critical of the AKP for not accepting the occurrence of the meetings and lying to the public during the elections, but the feared public or party backlash did not occur.
The MIT began an investigation into the matter after allegations that it could have been someone or a group within the organisation, in conjunction with MOSSAD, who may have leaked it to weaken the position of Hakan Fidan, appointed head of MIT after a brief stint as Undersecretary of the Prime Ministry. The Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan immediately made a statement on his way from Egypt to Tunisia to support Fidan and it was later reported that reinforcements would be appointed to MIT to consolidate Fidan’s position. The fact that the Prime Minister was quick to defend Fidan and then talk of reinforcements hitting headlines raises question marks that have not been dispelled yet. Israel’s possible involvement was interpreted as retaliation against the flotilla crisis and the strengthening of the AKP in the Middle East. With the leak coming at a time when the Prime Minister was on a tour of the ‘Arab Spring’ countries was further proof of this according to some. If this was the aim, Israel haven’t been very successful, but it could be a first warning to the AKP. According to ‘journalist’ Emre Uslu Israel intended to leak the recording during the election to dent the AKP’s campaign but opted against this as it would have the opposite effect amongst Kurds because the recording proves that the AKP were pushing for a solution whereas the PKK were sabotaging it. However it would be wise to state that Mr Uslu is mistaken because the PKK had not begun retaliatory attacks until after the elections and that the Turkish military had killed over 50 PKK guerrillas during April, May and June. So if the recording had been leaked during the election campaign it would have probably caused a greater stir for the AKP and would have strengthened the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Kurdish Freedom Movement in general, because Kurdish public opinion was aware of the meetings with Öcalan. The AKP’s tone hardened following the Silvan attack (July 14th) in which 13 soldiers were killed. On the same day the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) declared ‘Democratic Autonomy’ and both these incidents combined gave the AKP the much needed excuse to officially end the dialogue process, though it had evidently ended with the victory of the BDP in the general elections and the clarification of Kurdish demands during the meetings with Abdullah Öcalan. The much abused rhetoric of ‘the Kurds do not know what they want,’ was put into circulation immediately after this to obscure the aggressive policy of the AKP and put the blame on the Kurdish side.
Meanwhile the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) also rejected involvement in the leak and openly stated that whoever had leaked the recording did not have good intentions. However they accepted the meetings and said that they were being conducted in order to reach a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish issue, which they had always favoured. Although the meetings had developed to a certain degree, the monist, oppressive and aggressive approach of the AKP and the rejection of the protocols by the government had ended the meetings they added. The BDP also approached the leak positively and called for talks to be held openly with both Öcalan and also the PKK/KCK. They highlighted the fact that their had not been an uproar and that public opinion had reacted favourably for a more concrete peace process to begin.
The AKP once again kept true to their earlier rhetoric and said that it was the state that had conducted the meetings and not the government. However some analysts and journalists were quick to point out that Hakan Fidan had participated in the meeting as the representative of the Prime Minister and clearly stated this during the meeting on numerous occasions, as could be discerned from the recording. This places the recording in the first months of 2010 when Fidan was the Undersecretary of the Prime Ministry and not yet head of MIT. The AKP have tried to shadow this fact and most of the media have obligingly helped them. The meetings have been projected as being between the MIT and PKK and not a government representative and the PKK where an MIT agent is also present and there is a representative (facilitator) from an unnamed European country, who has a British English accent. This is a significant detail that needs to be highlighted if the peace process is to develop any time soon because as is evident from other similar peace processes it is not an abstract entity such as ‘the state’ that takes responsibility for such issues but concrete ‘governments’ that have majority support and can wield the correct instruments to further the process. The AKP government for some reason are shying away from assuming direct responsibility. Some may say it is fear of a backlash from nationalist/conservative circles but this is not a believable excuse anymore because it hasn’t materialised, and also because the AKP are constantly claiming that they are still behind the democratisation process. Moreover the AKP’s use of this argument is unsettling in that it implies that state organs such as MIT are meeting with PKK/KCK officials not to develop a solution but to create the basis for elimination. In a sense this is why the opposition parties CHP and MHP are not opposing this policy. This is also the reason why the PKK/KCK have been wary in their dealings with state organs because they believe that this is the case. One can say that to overcome this deadlock the AKP must claim direct responsibility for the meetings and abandon their current conspiratorial tone.
Contrary to the conspiratorial tone of the AKP, the tone of Hakan Fidan during the ‘Oslo 5’ meeting is positive and respectful. The approaches of Sabri Ok and Mustafa Karasu are also constructive and because of the previous meetings they have had the dialogue between Afet Güneş and the PKK/KCK representatives is at times playful and witty. Fidan brings news from Abdullah Öcalan and comments on his physical and mental health and also praises Öcalan’s intellectual capacity. He calls Öcalan ‘Mr Öcalan,’ which is ironically considered a crime in Turkey for which people are still in prison. It can also be discerned from the recording that MIT have been passing on notes between Öcalan and the PKK/KCK and that the government was placed in a quandary following the ‘Habur incident’ when peace groups arrived from the Qandil mountains and were freed illegally by prosecutors after their entrance. Afet Güneş blames the PKK/KCK representatives for the lack of organisation they showed and they in turn raise the argument that they couldn’t disclose to the Kurdish people that the peace groups had arrived in agreement with the government. The unexpected celebrations which ensued were interpreted by Turkish nationalist circles as a victory celebration for the PKK and a campaign against Kurds began, leading to lynching in some places. According to the recording and later developments it is clear that the ‘Habur incident’ didn’t end meetings and negotiations.
Towards the end of the recording both parties begin discussing concrete steps that need to be taken for a solution. They complain to each other about the mistakes that have been made; Afet Güneş mentions the killing of 7 soldiers in Reşadiye, and Sabri Ok talks of continuing military operations. It is clear however that the PKK/KCK want steps to be taken immediately regarding the teaching of Kurdish language in schools and release of political prisoners, whereas the government/MIT say that they can only do so much in a certain space of time and that public opinion isn’t ready and cannot be rushed. We do not know whether there was an ‘Oslo 6,’ however the leak shows that both parties had moved onto concrete negotiations.
The key moments in the recording arrives when Hakan Fidan states that PM Erdoğan is 90 – 95% in agreement with Abdullah Öcalan regarding a solution. So what has happened since early 2010 that conflict and arrests have exacerbated? Why weren’t the protocols negotiated at Imrali between Öcalan and the state committee accepted by the AKP? The PKK kept to their promise of a ceasefire through the summer of 2010 up until the summer of 2011. These ceasefires were extended by Öcalan on two occasions, however as mentioned before the military operations of the Turkish Armed Forces continued and ended in the deaths of over 50 PKK guerrillas. There were also nine civilian deaths in Hakkari in September 2010 and the death of three Kurdish children as well as the continuation of mass arrests and police attacks against civilians. The release of Muslim fundamentalist Hezbol-kontra militants who had carried out hundreds of killings of Kurdish patriots in the 1990s on behalf of the deep state organisation JITEM was also viewed as a threat by the Kurdish movement. All these incidents combined created a mistrust which was evident in all the statements made by Öcalan, the BDP and PKK/KCK. However the Kurdish side continued their good-will until July 27th, when Öcalan declared that he was removing himself from negotiations.
The two weeks that have elapsed since the leak has been an eventful and tragic period of time to say the least. Mass arrests of BDP politicians and members has resumed in many cities across the Kurdish region resulting in over 100 arrests in two weeks, totalling an amazing 1,356 arrests in six months. Amongst these were Şırnak Mayor Ramazan Uysal, Silopi Mayor Emin Tuğurlu, Idil Mayor Resul Sadak and Silopi District Mayor Bahattin Alkış who were arrested for attending meetings, reading press releases and other flimsy charges. These latest arrests come after the claim by Haberturk, a national newspaper, that security forces have a list of 1,500 people who they are going to arrest. It is reminiscent of the former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller’s list of politicians and businessmen who were later killed or imprisoned for aiding the Kurdish cause and carries very bad memories for the Kurdish people. The Kurds have labelled the arrest of over 3,000 BDP politicians and members as political genocide and a hostage-taking situation instigated by the AKP. These are people who have not participated in violent activity and indeed there have been no weapons confiscated during police raids. So why are these political detainments and arrests being carried out? Is this proof that the AKP want to eliminate the Kurdish opposition? Liberal commentators are struggling to fathom why this is happening and although they are criticising the mass arrests, they are not pointing the finger at the AKP despite knowing that they are being carried out by the Gulen Jamaat dominated police force. One could argue that this is the nature of peace processes for the more powerful party, which is generally the state, and that on one side they negotiate and on the other they ‘try to pull the carpet out from under their opposition.’ This is what they AKP are attempting to do and the Kurdish side are trying to keep their feet firmly on the ground.
However this is too much of a contradiction and even some MP’s within the AKP have voiced their concerns regarding the arrests and the collapse of the democratic political sphere. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç commented that Şırnak Mayor Ramazan Uysal would rather go to the mountains than to prison for 8 and a half years for a bulletin he read. This is also the case for thousands of other people who are faced daily with the threat of long term imprisonment. With these mass arrests the state is doing nothing but opening the path of the mountain and armed warfare rather than legal political struggle, which is requisite for the conflict to end. The latest statement by Prime Minister Erdoğan following his arrival from the UN Council in New York was that the government would combat ‘terror’ and negotiate with the political will of the people, which in this case is the BDP. However this cannot happen as long as arrests continue and is a clear indication of the insincerity of the Prime Minister. As he has done many times before the PM Erdoğan is once again attempting to weaken the BDP by offering them a hand after he has knocked them down. This ploy to weaken the BDP and force them to take the oath in Parliament is a continuation of the policy that was put into practice following the election; six of the BDP’s elected MP’s were not released from prison and one of them (Hatip Dicle) had his MP mandate revoked and was replaced by an AKP candidate.
Military operations continued alongside police operations during the past two weeks and there was conflict in several areas of Kurdistan. The Peoples’ Defence Forces (HPG)** carried out attacks against police officers and military headquarters in Diyarbakır and Siirt which led to the death of six soldiers and three guerrillas according to state figures. The most harrowing incident occurred also in Siirt as HPG guerrillas mistook six civilian women in a car for civilian police officers and attacked the car. Four of the women were killed and two wounded. The HPG apologised for the incident and sent their condolences to the family’s of the victims and said they were carrying out a thorough investigation. What is interesting is that some liberal and conservative writers and journalists are now comparing the PKK to JITEM, the deep-state organisation which carried out the extrajudicial killing of at least 17,000 Kurdish civilians. The obvious difference that these writers are missing is that the HPG accepted responsibility for its mistake and apologised, whereas the existence of JITEM has still not been accepted by the state and their killing-machine not been brought to justice. Moreover the four women who were killed were all Kurdish and also sympathisers of the Kurdish cause. This matter is of some contention, especially when considered together with the death of four Kurdish men (due to a HPG attack) who were also actively involved in the Kurdish struggle in Batman, whether certain groups within the HPG are getting false intelligence and being misdirected to carry out such attacks. It is evident that the PKK/KCK have no gain from this but they are still responsible for shedding some light on the incident.
The incident in Siirt was followed by the bomb explosion in Ankara which killed three civilians. The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) claimed responsibility and warned of further attacks if the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and attacks towards to the Kurdish people didn’t cease. Once again despite accusations against the PKK/KCK, the KCK Executive Committee issued a statement which condemned the action against civilians and said it was damaging the legitimate struggle of the Kurdish people and denied any relations with TAK. The KCK went as far as saying that the policies of the AKP were a mirror of the attacks by TAK and that the government was provocating TAK into taking uncontrolled action which would damage the joint future of the Kurdish and Turkish people.
From this information and analysis it can be seen that the leak has objectively contributed and developed the peace process despite certain parties trying to use it as evidence of the PKK sabotaging it. Once again it has also made it evident that the AKP government are implementing a policy to weaken and eventually eliminate the Kurdistan Freedom Movement. Detainments and arrests in the legal political sphere, the isolation of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, continuing military operations in Turkey and the threat of a cross-border operation which the Prime Minister has once again confirmed shows that the meetings between the PKK/KCK and government/MIT officials were geared towards prolonging the process so that the AKP could reconsolidate its power in the 2010 referendum and then 2011 general election, which they did. Collaboration with Iran, consultations between Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and Iraqi authorities as well as Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, and agreements with the USA regarding Predator drones is sufficient evidence to show that the AKP will lead one last military attack to marginalise the PKK/KCK. However if previous forays into South Kurdistan (North Iraq) are anything to go by, they will not be very successful. According to Wikileaks reports the cross border operation into Zap in 2008 ended with the death of 150 soldiers. The Turkish state had claimed that only 10 soldiers had died, whereas the PKK’s figures were closer to the Wikileaks report. This will be an unjustifiable loss of life and it will only lead back to square one; and that is the negotiation table. Already Bülent Arınç has stated that meetings with top PKK/KCK officials may continue, albeit with different names than the ones mentioned above. But once again his tone was not sincere and he said something along the lines of ‘we will try to influence and use them.’ This approach will not be accepted by the Kurdish Movement neither will it be accepted by the Kurdish people. If a long lasting solution is to be attained then it will need a just peace, where the Kurdish people receive all their rights as a people. The constitution will need to change substantially to guarantee these rights and the formation of a ‘Committee of Wise Men’ and ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ will need to be formed to end the conflict. Any other approach will only lead to resistance on behalf of the Kurdish people and conflict and war. The Kurdistan Freedom Movement are struggling for a just peace, whereas the AKP only want to continue their domination of Turkish politics and prolong their stay in power. For the process to resume negotiations between all parties, and all circles within society need to continue in a transparent manner, the isolation of Öcalan must cease and all military operations and attacks must stop on both sides. Then the talking can begin.
There are other issues which also need to be addressed and which have been speculated and discussed in length in the Turkish media, such as the nationality of the ‘facilitator,’ where the meetings were held, whether the recording was spliced together from different meetings etc. However these are secondary to the issue at hand, and that is whether the peace process can be continued with the current approach of the Turkish state and AKP government which is now dominating the state structure.
* The KCK is a larger organisation that also harbours the PKK.
** The HPG is the armed wing of the PKK.
For further information and sources: