Journal Essay

Reopening Turkey's Closed Kurdish Opening?

Michael Gunter

Summer 2013, Volume XX, Number 2

Dr. Gunter is a professor of political science at Tennessee Technological University. He has written nine books on the Kurdish people.

The effort to find a solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey is nothing new. It has been continuing ever since the Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan, or Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) — formally founded on November 27, 1978 — began its violent uprising on August 15, 1984.1 Over the years, PKK goals have evolved from initial plans to establish an independent Marxist state to current ones for the recognition of Kurdish political, social and cultural rights within a decentralized Turkey. However, Turkey has long considered the PKK a terrorist movement, a designation also accepted by its allies, the United States and the European Union (EU). Therefore, in most cases, the efforts to achieve peace have simply amounted to attempts to impose it by military means and, until recently, without any meaningful political reforms.

Nevertheless, over the years, the PKK had declared numerous unilateral cease-fires with the stated intention of having them lead to peace negotiations. In most cases, Turkey ignored these PKK ceasefires, deeming them mere signs of PKK weakness and imminent defeat.2 The only important exception occurred in March 1993, when then-Turkish President Turgut Ozal appeared close to accepting one of these PKK offers to negotiate. Ozal's sudden death on April 17, 1993, however, ended the effort, and even heavier fighting soon ensued.

Turkey's increasing military pressure in the late 1990s finally led to PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan's being forced out of his safe house in Syria in October 1998; he was eventually captured by Turkish commandos in Nairobi, Kenya, on February 15, 1999.3 At that time, Ocalan's capture seemed to end the conflict. The PKK declared another ceasefire and withdrew its forces from Turkey into the largely inaccessible Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq, bordering on Iran. However, Turkey continued to dismiss PKK offers to negotiate and demanded what amounted to a total surrender. By the summer of 2004, violence had begun again and gradually escalated so that by 2012 there were more deaths from the fighting than at any time since the late 1990s.

However, in the summer of 2009, the Kurdish problem in Turkey4 seemed on the verge of a solution when the ruling Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party, or AKP),5 government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gul announced a Kurdish Opening or Kurdish Initiative (also known as the Democratic Opening/Initiative). Gul declared that "the biggest problem of Turkey is the Kurdish question" and that "there is an opportunity [to solve it] and it should not be missed."6 Erdoğan asked: "If Turkey had not spent its energy, budget, peace and young people on [combating] terrorism; if Turkey had not spent the last 25 years in conflict, where would we be today?"7 Even the insurgent PKK itself, still led ultimately by imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan, briefly took Turkey's Kurdish Opening seriously.8 For a fleeting moment, optimism ran high. What happened? The main purpose of this article is to analyze the initial failure of the Turkish government's Kurdish Opening of 2009 and its reopening, which began at the end of 2012.


Shortly after its initial announcement, it became evident that the AKP government had not thought out its Kurdish Opening very well; it then also proved rather inept in trying to implement it. Specific proposals were lacking. Furthermore, despite AKP appeals to support its Kurdish Opening, all three of the parliamentary opposition parties declined. Indeed, the CHP (Kemalists or Nationalists) accused the AKP of "separatism, [bowing] to the goals of the terrorist PKK, violating the Constitution, causing fratricide and/or ethnic polarization between Kurds and Turks, being an agent of foreign states, and even betraying the country,"9 while the MHP (Ultra Turkish Nationalists) "declared the AKP to be dangerous and accused it of treason and weakness."10 Even the pro-Kurdish DTP failed to be engaged; it declined to condemn the PKK as the AKP government had demanded.11 Erdoğan, too, began to fear that any perceived concessions to the Kurds would hurt his Turkish nationalist base and future presidential hopes.

The PKK's "peace group" gambit on October 18, 2009 — ­to return 34 PKK members from northern Iraq home to Turkey — also backfired badly when these Kurdish expatriates were met by huge welcoming crowds at the Habur border crossing and later in Diyarbakir. These celebrations were broadcast throughout Turkey and proved too provocative for even moderate Turks, who perceived the affair as some sort of PKK victory parade. The Peace Group affair seemed to prove that the government had not thought out the implications of its Kurdish Opening and could not manage its implementation, let alone its consequences.

Then, on December 11, 2009, the Constitutional Court, after mulling over the issue for more than two years, suddenly banned the pro-Kurdish Demokratik Toplum Partisi (Democratic Society Party, DTP) because of its close association with the PKK. Although the Baris ve Demokrasi Partisi (Peace and Democracy Party, BDP), quickly took the DTP's place, the state-ordered banning of the DTP could not have come at a worse time; it put the kiss of death to the Kurdish Opening. In addition, more than 1,000 BDP and other Kurdish notables were placed under arrest for their supposed support of the PKK, in yet another body blow to the Kurdish Opening.12 Soon the entire country was ablaze with fury, and the Kurdish Opening seemed closed. The mountain had not even given birth to a mouse, and the entire Kurdish question seemed to have been set back to square one.13

In May 2010, the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), an arm of the PKK, charged that, since April 2009, more than 1,500 politicians, human-rights advocates, writers, artisans and leaders of civil-society organizations had been arrested. In addition, 4,000 children had been taken to court and 400 of them imprisoned for participating in demonstrations. Osman Baydemir, the popular ethnic Kurdish mayor of Diyarbakir, was scheduled to go to court on charges of "membership in a terror organization," while Muharrem Erbey, the vice chairman of Turkey's largest human-rights organization, the Human Rights Association (IHD), had already been imprisoned. Jess Hess, an American freelance journalist, had been deported for reporting critically on human-rights abuses against the Kurds.14


Although the AKP won practically 50 percent of the popular vote, or 326 seats,15 in the parliamentary elections on June 12, 2011, while the BDP and its allies won a record 36,16 new problems soon arose, and hopes for a more successful Kurdish Opening quickly foundered. Secretive talks between Ocalan in his prison on the island of Imrali17 and other senior PKK leaders in Oslo with Turkish officials from the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) broke down.18 Violence flared to heights not reached since the late 1990s.

Ocalan's Proposals

Although Ocalan's 160-page roadmap for solving the Kurdish problem was confiscated by Turkish authorities in August 2009 and therefore never even submitted, its basic contents are known from testimony at his trial for treason in 199919 and from subsequent statements over the years.20 In essence, the imprisoned PKK leader has proposed a democratization and decentralization of the Turkish state into what he has termed at various times a democratic republic, a democratic confederalism, a democratic nation, or a democratic homeland. Such autonomy and decentralization would be based on guidelines already listed in the European Charter of Local Self-Government adopted in 1985 and now ratified by 41 states, including Turkey — with numerous important conditions, however — and the European Charter of Regional Self-Government, which is still only in draft form. Thus, one might actually argue that earlier BDP proposals for some local autonomy would bring Turkey into conformity with EU guidelines by giving the Kurds local self-government. Moreover, one might also argue that the millet system of the former Ottoman Empire offered a historical model for local autonomy or proto-federalism in Turkey.

However, the AKP was appalled when the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Congress (DTK) — a new nongovernmental organization (NGO) that is close to the PKK and BDP — met in Diyarbakir in mid-December 2010 and outlined its solution for democratic autonomy. It envisaged Kurdish as a second official language, a separate flag and a Marxist-style organizational model for Kurdish society. The DTK's draft also broached the vague idea of "self-defense forces" that would be used not only against external forces, but against the subjects of the so-called democratic-autonomy initiative, who were not participating in what was called the "struggle."21

The Turkish Republic created by Kemal Ataturk in 1923 has always been a strongly centralized state. Radical decentralization as proposed by the PKK and BDP goes against this strong mindset and would thus be most problematic. On the other hand, states such as Britain and France, famous for their centralized unitary structure, have recently rolled back centuries of constitutional forms in favor of what they consider a necessary decentralization. Far from leading to their breakup as states, this decentralization has satisfied local particularism and checked possible demands for future independence. Thus, far from threatening its national unity, some Turkish decentralization might help preserve it.

However, given that more than half of Turkey's ethnic Kurdish population does not even live in its historical southeastern Anatolian homeland but is scattered throughout the country, especially in such cities as Istanbul, as well as the fact that a sizable number of Turkey's ethnic Kurds have assimilated into a larger Turkish civic identity, a radical decentralization that would be incompatible with modern Turkey's heritage may not be necessary. What is needed, however, is for the state to begin seriously talking with the most important, genuine representatives of its disaffected Kurdish minority: the PKK.

If Turkey is going to resume negotiating with Ocalan and the PKK, of course, the time must surely come for Turkey to cease calling the PKK a terrorist organization and challenge it to negotiate peacefully. The term "terrorism" distorts the discussion. It not only prevents the two main parties from fully negotiating with each other; it also impedes the European Union and the United States from playing stronger roles in the process.

Shortly after the election results of June 2011 had been announced, newly re-elected Prime Minister Erdoğan seemed to turn his back on an earlier promise to seek consensus on the drafting of a new constitution that would help solve the Kurdish problem. He also broke off contact with the BDP and continued to declare that the Kurdish problem had been solved and that only a PKK problem remained.22

Then, on July 14, 2011, the DTK, the umbrella pro-Kurdish NGO mentioned above, proclaimed "democratic autonomy," a declaration that seemed wildly premature and over-blown to many observers and infuriated Turkish officialdom. Amidst mutual accusations concerning who was initiating the renewed violence and warlike rhetoric,23 the Turkish military on August 17, 2011, launched several days of cross-border attacks on reported PKK targets in northern Iraq's Kandil Mountains. The Turkish government claimed to have killed 100 Kurdish rebels, while the PKK maintained that it had lost only three fighters and that an additional seven local Iraqi Kurdish civilians had also been killed.24

Violence continued on June 19, 2012, when the PKK attacked Diglica, a Turkish outpost near the Iraqi frontier, and killed eight soldiers, wounding another 16.25 The same outpost had been hit five years earlier, so the latest strike seemed to illustrate the lack of Turkish progress in controlling the violence, viewed by many as a result of the state's failure to negotiate with the PKK. Others argued, however, that the ultimate problem was the inherent ethnic Turkish inability to accept the fact that Turkey should be considered a multiethnic state in which the Kurds share constitutional rights as co-stakeholders. Moreover, during 2011 and 2012, more leading intellectuals have been rounded up for alleged affiliations with the KCK/PKK,26 whose proposals for democratic autonomy seem to suggest an alternative government. Many of those arrested were also affiliated with the BDP. 

In addition, Leyla Zana, the famous female Kurdish leader and BDP member of parliament, was once again sentenced to prison on May 24, 2012, for "spreading propaganda" on behalf of the PKK. The charges concerned nine speeches she had made over the years in which she had argued for recognition of the Kurdish identity, called Ocalan a Kurdish leader, and urged the reopening of peace negotiations between Turkey and the PKK. In 1994, Zana had been stripped of her membership in parliament and imprisoned for 10 years on similar charges. However, for the time being Zana remains free, given her current parliamentary immunity. Interestingly, shortly afterwards, she declared that she had confidence in Erdoğan's ability to solve the Kurdish problem.27 On June 30, 2012, she actually met with the prime minister, an event that caused bitter debate within in the Kurdish community but seemed to me a positive step.28

These aforementioned arrests and sentencings point to serious problems.  First, there is the nature of the crimes, which allege no violence. Mere "association" is enough to be counted as a terrorist.  In addition, the connections are tenuous. As Human Rights Watch has noted, "There is scant evidence to suggest the defendants engaged in any acts that could be defined as terrorism as it is understood in international law."29  Second, the arrests come at a time when Turkey is planning to develop a new constitution.30  The silencing of pro-Kurdish voices as constitutional debates go forward is counterproductive for Turkey's future.  Finally, there is the way suspects are treated. Virtually all are subject to pre-trial detentions, effectively denying them freedom in the absence of any proof that they have committed a crime. Although precise figures are unavailable, Human Rights Watch has declared that several thousand are currently on trial, and that another 605 are in pretrial detention on KCK/PKK-related charges.31


Recent events offer cautious hope that the time to renew the dialogue and resume direct negotiations between the Turkish government and the PKK may have arrived. In late October 2012, for example, a report in the respected news outlet Zaman declared, "The government is preparing to launch a new initiative to deal with the Kurdish problem to hopefully pave the way for arms to be buried for good."32 The Zaman report went on to say that the government had learned from the past what steps would not work. It concluded cryptically, "Therefore, actors and factors that had a part in the previous peace process will not be included in the new process, while for some other actors the government will reach a decision based on observation of the present attitude of those actors."

The civil war in Syria might also be encouraging a reprise of Turkey's Kurdish Opening. In July 2012, the embattled Assad regime suddenly pulled its troops out of Syria's largely Kurdish-populated northeastern area, and a de facto autonomy quickly settled in. At first, Turkey showed its traditional hostility to this development, lest it spur Turkey's own disaffected Kurds to make similar demands for autonomy. However, a more nuanced Turkish position surely required a settlement with its own disaffected Kurds — ­to provide insulation from the increasing instability threatening to overflow Turkey's southern border.

In late October 2012, Erdoğan's visit to Turkey's Kurdish-populated southeast led to speculation that he was about to start a new opening to solve the Kurdish problem. Erdoğan had already said he was prepared to relaunch talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader still jailed on the island of Imrali. Indeed, Erdoğan even declared that the Turkish intelligence service could "do anything at any moment. . . . For example, if it is necessary to go to Imrali tomorrow, I will tell the MIT chief to go ahead."33 Hasip Kaplan, a leading BDP MP, actually suggested that new negotiations were already underway: "I presume that talks on Imrali have started anew."

One reason for Erdoğan's interest in a renewed Kurdish Opening might be the upcoming local elections. Erdoğan's AKP and the pro-Kurdish BDP were expected to be the main rivals for support in the southeastern Kurdish region. During the prime minister's recent visit to this area, he reminded the locals that his governing AKP was in a better position to provide basic services for them than the pro-Kurdish nationalist BDP. The immediate question was whether the national elections of 2007, when the AKP prevailed over the BDP's DTP predecessor in the region, or the 2009 local elections, when the DTP trumped the AKP, would attract the voters.

Indeed, by January 2013, it was clear that the Turkish government had renewed the Kurdish Opening and that tentative negotiations with the imprisoned Ocalan had begun.34 The sudden murder of three PKK activists in Paris on January 10, 2013, appeared to be an attempt to sabotage these negotiations.35 Nevertheless, subsequent reports indicated that officials from the MIT were already meeting again with such prominent PKK leaders in Europe as Sabri Ok, while other negotiations involved Ocalan.36

By the beginning of March 2013, these contacts seemed to be moving forward when a BDP group arrived in Sulaymaniya in Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq to deliver a message from Ocalan to the PKK guerrilla leaders ensconced in the Kandil Mountains bordering Iraq and Iran.37 A similar letter was sent to senior PKK leaders in Europe. In his letter, Ocalan spoke about a ceasefire, the withdrawal of PKK fighters from Turkey, the release of PKK prisoners, the disarming and reintegration of some 7,000 PKK fighters into Turkish society, and constitutional reforms.

In doing this, the imprisoned PKK leader struck both optimistic and pessimistic positions:

Everybody should know that we will neither live nor fight as we used to. . . . You should know well that neither I nor the state will take a step back. [We will achieve] a historic peace and transition to democratic life.

Ocalan then explained,

The PKK's withdrawal from Turkey will be after a Parliament ruling and the Turkish Grand Assembly will approve it, a truth commission will be established. [Kurdish people who were exiled] will return to their villages. If these conditions are not met, the [PKK's] withdrawal will not become real.

Ocalan also elaborated on the subsequent political environment he expected after "the establishment of peace. . . . Neither house arrest nor amnesty, there will be no need for those. We will all be free." However, if the peace process fails, "a civil war will begin with 50,000 people."

As for the Turkish side, public-opinion polls showed that the renewed Kurdish peace talks had tentative public support, a great change from the past, when any such suggestions were liable to bring accusations of treason. Gradually, the Turkish government has begun to humanize Ocalan in an effort to pave the way for talks. Ocalan's successful call for some 600 supporters to end a hunger strike that was creating dangerous repercussions for the government in the fall of 2012 was an example of his own efforts.

In addition, Erdoğan declared that, "if drinking poison hemlock is necessary, we can also drink it to bring peace and welfare to this country."38 An AKP member of parliament from Diyarbakir, Galip Ensarioglu, said that "Ocalan is more reasonable than those who are outside. Ocalan is acting responsibly and [this] is a chance for Turkey."39 Hakan Fidan,40 the head of MIT — who was involved in the earlier Oslo talks with senior PKK leaders — has been speaking with Ocalan since late 2012. According to Ayla Akat, a BDP member of parliament who recently visited Ocalan: "Fidan and Ocalan have managed to understand each other."41

Background preparation has already brought Turks and Kurds together in Britain and Northern Ireland to learn about the successful Good Friday Accords that finally brought peace to that ancient quarrel.42 Erdoğan has approved these contacts. One such visit was to the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh to see how power might devolve from the center successfully, a crucial point in the current bargaining between Turkey and the PKK. The Turkish government has also established an interdepartmental agency — with responsibilities ranging from security to education and social policy — to coordinate policy and responses concerning the Kurdish question. The agency's head was a recent participant in the visits to Britain.

For its part, the EU parliament endorsed the reopened Kurdish peace process in a special session. Lucinda Creighton, an Irish politician speaking for the EU presidency, stated: "It is clear that the wider Kurdish issue can only be addressed through a peaceful, comprehensive and sustainable solution."43 Stefan Fule, the EU enlargement commissioner, added that the reopened talks were "historic . . . [and] would have a strong impact on the [EU] accession process of Turkey as such, as it would further consolidate the role of the European Union as a benchmark for reforms in Turkey."

Unfortunately, these hopes for a successful conclusion of Turkey's new Kurdish Opening appear tenuous for several reasons. Enormous differences between the two sides remain. The AKP government seeks to solve the issue by having the PKK disarm and its fighters involved in previous violence seek asylum in other countries, in exchange for the mere removal of legal restrictions on Kurdish identity and language. The PKK, however, wants meaningful autonomy that would give their supporters, including Ocalan himself, significant power. If the historical record is any guide, the Turkish government will never be willing to grant such concessions; it would seem to be leading to the state's break-up. In addition, disarming the PKK would prove exceedingly difficult, especially given its stated position that it should have a role in maintaining security in Turkey's southeastern Kurdish provinces. An ironic facet to all this is Erdoğan's attempt to gain Ocalan's and the BDP's support for a new Turkish constitution in which Erdoğan would occupy the new position of "super-president." Ocalan, however, has responded to the effect that American-style checks and balances would be needed.44

All this leads to whether the costs of the current fighting are really so high as to demand a settlement. Probably they are not. As Nihat Ali Ozcan, a Turkish counterterrorist official, has asserted: "We can tolerate 500 deaths a year. It's considered normal."45 Indeed, there remain many elements in both Turkey's security-minded Deep State and its PKK equivalent that actually see themselves as benefiting from a continuation of the fighting. Surely neither side is ready to surrender its key positions for an unfavorable peace that would be seen as a betrayal of all the suffering that has been endured.

Finally, even if Ocalan agrees to a settlement, it is unclear whether he would be able to bring along the hardcore PKK guerrillas in the Kandil Mountains, among others. After all, the titular PKK leader has grown old as a prisoner in Imrali for more than 14 years. New PKK leadership and cadres have come of age who are unlikely to meekly give up their positions on the mere words of a person many probably see as out of touch with current realities. Ocalan can be still accepted as the PKK head while imprisoned, but if he were to seek to become the arbitrator of actual daily events, it might be a very different situation. Indeed, Ocalan himself recently suggested that his colleagues in the Kandil Mountains were not as enthusiastic about his peace efforts: "Even the PKK does not understand me. . . . Qandil [Kandil] is pessimistic; it would be good if they get over it. . . . I'm angry with them."46 Thus, although the current reopening offers a historic opportunity,47 clearly there remain many serious obstacles to overcome before any permanent settlement can be reached.


1 Earlier uprisings occurred in the 1920s and 1930s. See Robert Olson, The Emergence of Kurdish Nationalism and the Sheikh Said Rebellion, 1880-1925 (University of Texas Press, 1989); and David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, third revised ed. (I.B. Tauris, 2004). In addition, several legal pro-Kurdish parties have existed since the early 1990s. Although they have been eventually banned by the Turkish government, they too have played a role in what are in effect negotiations. See Nicole F. Watts, Activists in Office: Kurdish Politics and Protest in Turkey (University of Washington Press, 2010).

2 For more on these earlier missed opportunities to find a solution, see Henri J. Barkey and Graham E. Fuller, "Turkey's Kurdish Question: Critical Turning Points and Missed Opportunities," Middle East Journal 51 (Winter 1997): 59-79.

3 For more on this topic, see Michael M. Gunter, "The Continuing Kurdish Problem in Turkey after Ocalan's Capture, Third World Quarterly 21 (October 2000): 849-69.

4 For recent analyses of the Kurdish problem in Turkey, see Mustafa Cosar Unal, Counterterrorism in Turkey: Policy Choices and Policy Effects toward the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) (Routledge, 2012); Marlies Casier and Joost Jongerden, eds., Nationalisms and Politics in Turkey: Political Islam, Kemalism and the Kurdish Issue (Routledge, 2011); Michael M. Gunter, The Kurds Ascending: The Evolving Solution to the Kurdish Problem in Iraq and Turkey, second ed. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); and Aliza Marcus, Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence (New York University Press, 2007), among others.

In addition, see the proceedings of the Ninth Annual International Conference of the EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), "The Kurdish Question in Turkey: Time to Renew the Dialogue and Resume Direct Negotiations," December 5-6, 2012, European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium. For some of these proceedings, see Also see my earlier comments in Michael Gunter, "The Closing of Turkey's Kurdish Opening," Journal of International Affairs (online), September 12, 2012.

5 For recent scholarly work on the AK Party (AKP), see Umit Cizre, ed., Secular and Islamic Politics in Turkey: The Making of the Justice and Development Party (Routledge, 2007); William Hale and Ergun Ozbudun, Islamism, Democracy and Liberalism in Turkey: The Case of the AKP (Routledge, 2010); and M. Hakan Yavuz, Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey (Cambridge University Press, 2009). Also see Michael M. Gunter and M. Hakan Yavuz, "Turkish Paradox: Progressive Islamists versus Reactionary Secularists," Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies 16 (Fall 2007): 289-301.

6 Cited in "Gul: Kurdish Problem Is the Most Important Problem of Turkey," Today's Zaman, May 11, 2009,

7 Cited in Today's Zaman, August 12, 2009. Also see Marlies Casier, Joost Jongerden, and Nic Walker, "Fruitless Attempts? The Kurdish Initiative and Containment of the Kurdish Movement in Turkey," New Perspectives on Turkey, no. 44 (Spring 2011): 103-127.

8 Author's contacts with Kurdish sources in Europe and the Middle East. Also see Cengiz Candar, "The Kurdish Question: The Reasons and Fortunes of the ‘Opening,'" Insight Turkey 11 (Fall 2009): 13-19.

9 Hurriyet, issues of November 18, 2009; December 2, 2009; December 9, 2009; and December 14, 2009; as cited in Menderes Cinar, "The Militarization of Secular Opposition in Turkey," Insight Turkey 12 (Spring 2010): 119. Also see E. Fuat Keyman, "The CHP and the ‘Democratic Opening': Reactions to AK Party's Electoral Hegemony," Insight Turkey 12 (Spring 2010): 91-108.

10 Odul Celep, "Turkey's Radical Right and the Kurdish Issue: The MHP's Reaction to the ‘Democratic Opening,'" Insight Turkey 12 (Spring 2010): 136.

11 Rusen Cakir, "Kurdish Political Movement and the ‘Democratic Opening,'" Insight Turkey 12 (Spring 2010): 185.

12 Actually, despite the government's Kurdish Opening, arrests of Kurdish politicians and notables associated with the Koma Civaken Kurdistan (KCK), or Kurdistan Communities Union, an umbrella PKK organization supposedly acting as the urban arm of the PKK, had been occurring since April 14, 2009, in apparent retaliation for the DTP local election victories at the end of March 2009. These DTP gains were largely at the expense of the AKP.

13 For further background, see Marlies Casier, Andy Hilton, and Joost Jongerden, "‘Road Maps' and Roadblocks in Turkey's Southeast," Middle East Report Online, October 30, 2009, The reference to not even a mouse was made by now banned DTP leader Ahmet Turk. Ibid., 6.

14 "Resolution of the Tenth General Assembly Meeting of the Kurdistan National Congress KNK," (Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2010).

15 Ross Wilson, "Turkish Election: An AKP Victory with Limits," New Atlanticist: Policy and Analysis Blog, June 13, 2011.

16 "Kurds Make Big Gains in Turkish Election," Today's Zaman, June 13, 2011,

17 Lale Kemal, "Turkey's Paradigm Shift on Kurdish Question and KCK Trial," Today's Zaman, October 21, 2010, which refers to "state contacts with the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, on supposedly broader issues," http:///; and Hemin Khoshnaw, "Mediator Confirms Turkey Is Negotiating with Ocalan," Rudaw, August 10, 2011, More recently, see Hemin Khoshnaw, "North Kurdistan (Turkey): Secret Talks Reported between Turkey and Imprisoned PKK Leader," Rudaw, July 11, 2012, This latter article states that "the English are mediating between the PKK and MIT [Turkish National Intelligence Organization]," and also refers to the intermediary roles of Leyla Zana (see below) and Ilhami Isik (Balikci).

18 For background, see Jake Hess, "The AKP's ‘New Kurdish Strategy' Is Nothing of the Sort: An Interview with Selahattin Demirtas [co-president of the BDP]," Middle East Research and Information Project, May 2, 2012,

19 See, for example, Abdullah Ocalan, Declaration on the Democratic Solution of the Kurdish Question (Mesopotamian Publishers, 1999).

20 Abdullah Ocalan, Prison Writings: The PKK and the Kurdish Question in the 21st Century, trans. and edited by Klaus Happel (Transmedia Publishing Ltd., 2011); and Abdullah Ocalan, Prison Writings III: The Road Map to Negotiations, trans. Havin Guneser (International Initiative Edition, 2012). Also see Emre Uslu, "PKK's Strategy and the European Charter of Local Self-Government," Today's Zaman, June 28. 2010,

21 Ayse Karabat, "Kurds Expect Gul's Diyarbakir Visit to Ease Recent Tension," Today's Zaman, December 29, 2010,

22 Robert Tait, "Turkey's Military Strikes Could Herald Closure for Kurdish Opening," RFE/RL, August 24, 2011,

23 "Turkey Prepares for Ground Assault on Kurdish Rebels in Iraq," Deutsche Welle, August 24, 2011,,,15342116,00.html. The PKK killed nearly 40 Turkish soldiers beginning in July 2011, claiming its attacks were in retaliation for earlier government special forces operations that had killed more than 20 rebels.

24 Suzan Fraser, "Turkey Says It Killed 100 Kurdish Rebels in Iraq," Associated Press, August 23, 2011,

25 Emre Uslu, "The Daglica Attack: What Does It Tell Us?," Today's Zaman, June 20, 2012,

26 The following discussion and citations are taken from Howard Eissenstat, "A War on Dissent in Turkey," Human Right Now, November 4, 2011, Http://

27 "Leyla Zana Stands by Erdoğan Remarks in Spite of BDP Reaction," Today's Zaman, June 15, 2012, On June 30, 2012 she actually met with the Turkish prime minister, an event that caused bitter debate within in the Kurdish community, but to this author seemed a positive step. "Zana Reveals Details of Erdoğan Meeting," Hurriyet Daily News, July 1, 2012,

28 "Zana Reveals Details of Erdoğan Meeting," Hurriyet Daily News, July 1, 2012,

29 "Turkey: Arrests Expose Flawed Justice System," Human Rights Watch, November 1, 2011,

30 For background, see Michael M. Gunter, "Turkey: The Politics of a New Democratic Constitution," Middle East Policy 19 (Spring 2012): 119-25.

31 "Turkey: Arrests Expose Flawed Justice System," Human Rights Watch. Meral Danis Bestas, the current vice-chair of the BDP, told me on May 16, 2012, when I spoke with her through a translator in London, that more than 6,000 had been detained by the Turkish authorities.

32 This and the following data were garnered from Ahmet Donmez and Aydin Albayrak, "Government to Put Together a New Roadmap on Kurdish Issue," Today's Zaman, October 22, 2012, http://www.mesop.ed/2012/10/22/government-to-put-together.

33 This and the following citation as well at the related discussion are taken from Thomas Seibert, "Erdoğan Calls for Unity between Turks and Kurds," The National, October 24, 2012,

34 Murat Yetkin, "A Rare Chance in the Kurdish Problem," Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey), January 7, 2013,

35 Dan Bilefsky and Alan Cowell, "3 Kurds Are Killed in Paris in Locked-Door Mystery," New York Times, January 10, 2013. As of this writing (March 1, 2013), the Parisian police had a suspect under arrest, but it still was not clear if he was guilty and, if so, what his motives were. For further details, see Michael M. Gunter, "Murder in Paris: Parsing the Murder of Female PKK Leader," Militant Leadership Monitor 4 (January 2013): 12-13.

36 "100 PKK Militants to Lay Down Arms: Report," Hurriyet Daily News, January 29, 2013,; and "PKK: Disarmament & Ceasefire in February?" Hurriyet Daily News, January 29, 2013,

37 The following analysis is largely based on "PKK Leader's Letter to Kandil Reaches Northern Iraq: Report," Hurriyet Daily News, February 28, 2013, http://www/; and Ayla Jean Yackley, "Kurdish Rebel Leader Ocalan Airs Frustrations in Turkey Peace Process," Reuters, March 1, 2013, http;//

38 "Turkey's Erdoğan Calls for More Support for Peace Move," Today's Zaman, February 26, 2013,'s-Erdoğan.

39 "Leak of Imrali Record Sparks Controversy over Its Source," Hurriyet Daily News, February 29 [sic], 2013,

40 Hakan Fidan became the head of the MIT in May 2010. He is in his mid-40s and has had a considerable amount of experience in the military, intelligence, and foreign policy fields. Most recently he was also the head of the Turkish Development and Cooperation Agency (TIKA) which is tasked with implementing development cooperation towards poverty eradication and sustainable development abroad. His undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland University College was in management and political science. Subsequently he earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Bilkent University in Ankara. His doctoral dissertation was entitled, "The Role of Information Technologies in Verifying International Agreements in the Age of Information."

41 Cited in Ian Traynor and Constanze Letsch, "Locked in a Fateful Embrace: Turkey's PM and His Kurdish Prisoner," The Guardian, March 1, 2013,

42 The following data were taken from Ian Traynor, "Turks and Kurds Look to Good Friday Accords as Template for Peace," The Guardian, March 1, 2013,

43 This and the following citation were gleaned from Ayhan Simsek, "EU Voices Pro Peace Talks. . . ," for SES Turkiye, February 14, 2013,

44 Kadri Gursel, "Ocalan Negotiations Impact/Future of Turkish Presidency," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, March 1, 2013,

45 Cited in Traynor, "Locked in a Fateful Embrace."

46 Cited in Yackley, "Kurdish Rebel Leader Ocalan Airs Frustrations in Turkey Peace Process."

47 In recognition of this development, the mainline U.S. weekly magazine Time, in its issue of April 29/May 6, 2013, named the previously obscure Ocalan as one of "the 100 most influential people in the world" and called him a "voice for peace." Previously, such praise would have been inconceivable.