By May 8, all PKK fighters will withdraw from Turkey, the group’s commander said in a speech yesterday. The PKK—the Kurdistan Workers’ Party—has fought a war against Turkey for over three decades at a cost of tens of thousands of casualties. In recent months there have been hopeful yet tentative signals from both sides that the war is winding down. Yesterday’s speech by Kurdish commander Murat Karayilan from the PKK’s base in the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq is a demonstration of good will from the militant Kurdish group.
Mr. Karayilan, in a statement read in Turkish and summarized in English, outlined the process by which the P.K.K. expected the government to meet its end of the bargain, by giving the Kurds further democratic rights under a new constitution and releasing Kurdish prisoners, including the P.K.K.’s highly influential primary founder, Abdullah Ocalan. However, he refused demands by the Turkish government that rebels disarm before leaving the country, and said his militants would carry weapons strictly for self-defense. He also suggested that foreign observers monitor the withdrawal for any misconduct on either side, reported NTV, a private TV network.
The Kurds, it should be remembered, are scattered across northern Iraq, Syria, and southern Turkey, and play a significant role in both the Syrian civil war and Iraq’s current political turmoil. Kurdish leaders might have taken a look around and decided to reduce the number of entanglements in which their forces are caught up; the same goes for Turkey. With Syria boiling over, neither can afford to fight too many battles at once.No matter the reason, the fact that the peace process is moving forward is a good sign. But ceasefires have been ruined and the peace process derailed by one side or the other numerous times over the years. We’ll wait and see what happens before calling an end to the Kurdish battle with Turkey once and for all.