A historic meeting and rally yesterday in Diyarbakir brought together PM Erdogan and the leader of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (aka Kurdistan), Masoud Barzani, amid a boisterous show of unity between Iraqi and Turkish Kurds and the Turkish government. People gave speeches in Kurdish as well as Turkish (and spoke in each others’ languages), supporting “brotherhood” and the peace process between the Turkish government and the PKK. Kurdish musicians sang songs in Kurdish, something that even ten years ago could have gotten the singer demonized and arrested. PM Erdogan recited some lines from just such a musician, Ahmet Kaya, who was exiled from Turkey for saying he was including a Kurdish song in an album. He died abroad thirteen years ago. “You are true citizens,” Erdogan said. “No one can assimilate you.” “We are brothers,” he insisted, and followed this with the observation that “we also share the same faith.” He said he imagined a country with empty prisons, which some took as a hint that the government would consider a general amnesty for PKK fighters.
According to news accounts, PKK flags and paraphernalia were not in view. One reason may be because Barzani and Erdogan are both opposed to the autonomous administration that the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), with PKK support, has begun to set up in northern Syria. This is a wooly affair with many contradictory cross-currents. There is a peace process between the AKP government and the PKK. The AKP government has a deal with Iraqi Kurdistan to receive its oil through a pipeline for market (despite Iraqi protests that Kurdistan shouldn’t be making deals independent of the central government), meaning that the Turkish side of the Iraqi border finally needs to be peaceful and able to develop economically. A good incentive for an AKP-PKK peace deal. In northern Syria right next door, the PYD is busy setting up an independent administration. The PKK supports this. Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan do not. BUT the Kurds in Syria are a force (perhaps the only force at present) that can stand up to the foreign jihadi groups like al-Nusra that are linked to al-Qaeda and that aim to cut out swathes of Syria for an Islamic state. Ergo Turkey should support the PYD… and so on. My head spins. And I haven’t even included Turkey’s attempts to balance the competing interests of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US and others with hot and heavy-handed interest in regional outcomes.