The unity talks between the Democratic Union Party (PYD)/ Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdistan National Council (KNC) have resumed. They are in dire straits though, after initially kicking off nicely last year. It’s a complicated issue, with not only the PYD/SDF and the KNC involved, but also the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Kurdistan in Iraq, the United States (US), and of course the Turkish government in Ankara. What most analysts seem to miss in their pieces about the web of relations and sensitivities, is that it is ultimately Ankara that is pulling the strings, and that it’s not at all interested in finding a solution. Acknowledging that would help to understand what’s happening.
From the very beginning I have had the feeling that the unity talks would lead absolutely nowhere. That might not be a very nice thing to say, let alone say it openly, let alone say it when the negotiations first kicked off. Let alone because in essence, of course Kurdish unity is what every Kurd longs for, and every friend of Kurds wants as well. This nation of forty million could have a tremendous impact on the region when and if they acted together, not only against the powers that keep them in chains but also as advocates for the rights of other nations in the region that are deprived of their rights.
Having said that, Turkey will just simply not allow it. Dividing the Kurds and inciting them to act against their own interests, is Turkey’s speciality. The KDP is connected to the KNC and they are both held in an iron grip by Turkey, both politically and financially. So if Turkey wants the negotiations to stop, they will stop. And that’s what will happen.
Meanwhile, what many people debate is to what extend the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is connected to the SDF and how many of the SDF’s leading cadre is ‘from Qandil’ or ‘from Turkey’. It may be interesting information to get to know the PKK and SDF better, but for the negotiations, it doesn’t matter. Turkey wouldn’t suddenly be okay with the SDF if nobody from Qandil would serve there, or nobody from Turkey. For Ankara, undermining state structures and building local democratic structures, as the ideology of both PKK and SDF advocate, is terrorism anyway. In other words, debating the origins of SDF members is stepping into the Turkish terrorism trap. While neither the PKK or the SDF are terrorist organisations. They both have a different nature, a different task and they are active in different territories, but what they have in common is that they are not terrorists. Fact.
If there is one thing that I have learned during my one year with the fighters who follow the ideology of Abdullah Öcalan (PKK, YPG, SDF), it is to zoom out. What is the bigger picture? What is the core of the matter? The core of the matter are not these daily developments, like a new President in the US and James Jeffrey leaving and Brett McGurk returning , or to which issue the negotiations between SDF and KNC have progressed exactly. This is all a distraction.
The core of the issue is that Turkey still refuses to solve the Kurdish issue at home and keeps insisting it is fighting ‘terrorism’.
If Erdoğan would dust off the negotiating table that he dumped in his palace’s dungeons and sit down with the PKK to talk peace and justice, it would not only bring peace to Turkey but could contribute to peace in Syria as well. Some say that’s impossible because you can’t expect a leader to sit down and talk with a group it considers terrorist. You can’t? Of course you can. It has happened so often in history, even in Turkey itself – remember the so-called ‘peace process’ between the state and the PKK from 2013 to 2015? Other, more successful, negotiations with ‘terrorist organisations’ come to mind as well, for example the South-African apartheid state and the ANC, which was also designated as ‘terrorists’ by much of the western world as well.
What is needed, is the political will to solve the Kurdish issue in Turkey, and by extension the problems in other parts of Kurdistan. Everything else is a distraction, even the issue of whether the US and the EU should remove the PKK from the list of terrorist organisations. The chance of them doing that, is zero. Not just because they are fine with Erdogan’s crimes and don’t care a tiny little bit about the brutal armed conflict in Turkey and the bombings in the Kurdistan mountains, but also because organisations are only removed from such lists when the underlying issue is solved. Look at the ANC again: the African National Congress was only removed from international terrorism lists after there was no doubt left that the crime of apartheid would be abolished.
Erdoğan lacks political will. He’s not a statesman who cares about a good future for the country and all its citizens, he’s just a pathetic dictator. The one showing political will is the SDF general commander Mazlum Kobane – he’d be a good statesman if he wanted to be. Even when the negotiations about Kurdish unity eventually fail, the show of political will is a solid investment in the future. While Erdoğan keeps investing in what is the past. I know who will triumph.