Turkish Plan Offers Hope of Resolving PKK Conflict
The lifting of bans on Kurds has given hope that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) problem, as it is known in Turkey, could reach a peaceful end. However, this remains an extremely controversial political issue in Turkey. Naturally, the U.S. would like to see a solution to the PKK problem before the planned military withdrawal by the end of 2011.
The recent decision by the Turkish Parliament to debate a plan to lift certain bans on Kurdish cultural identity in Turkey has encouraged the PKK to seek peace. The Turkish plan would establish an anti-discrimination committee, expand the use of the Kurdish language by returning Kurdish names to Kurdish towns, and authorize using Kurdish in all media broadcasts and political campaigns.
In response to the plan, PKK leadership has encouraged several “peace groups” to surrender to the Turkish gendarmerie forces from their hideouts in Turkey and Iraq. However, the question of granting PKK members any amnesty is a highly contentious issue in Turkey, where the conflict has claimed approximately 40,000 lives over the last half decade.
Fighting between the PKK and the Turkish government has spread to Iraqi Kurdistan in recent years, and Turkey estimates there are some 2,000 out of 5,000 PKK guerrillas operating out of Iraq. While the U.S. has supported Turkish operations in Iraq to pursue PKK terrorists, a speedy end to this conflict would benefit the U.S. in anticipation of the December 2011 troop withdrawal from Iraq.