Foreign Policy

Tragedy casts dark shadow over Kurd/Turkey negotiations

On the eve of talks between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish government, three female members of the outlawed organization are found dead in Paris.

The three women were no ordinary women; each was a high-ranking member of the PKK. Sakine Cansiz was a founding member, a symbol of the struggle. Fidan Doğan was the representative in Paris for the Kurdistan National Congress. Leyla Söylemez was a dedicated activist.

All were shot in the office of the Kurdistan Information Center shortly after news surfaced that the Erdoğan government was resuming talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK. Tensions have been high since.

Traditionally, when news of possible negotiations is announced, violence rises between the Turks and the Kurds. Any contact between the PKK and the Turkish government is a sensitive issue for all affected even in the diaspora communities. Currently, it is unclear who is at fault for the recent murders, but it’s possible that it was an inside job resulting from internal discord.

Then, news leaked that Turkish jets hit over 50 PKK targets in the mountainous region of Iraq where many Kurdish rebels are living.

The most recent attempts at negotiations are endeavoring to call a seizefire as this could eventually lead to the establishment of an independent Kurd state. After World War I, the Kurds were denied a state when the French and British redrew the region. Since then, over 40,000 have laid down their lives for nationalism.

According to Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdoğan, the talks will continue. “Nobody can make us surrender. We did not take a step back in the face of any attack, we will not take any step back” Erdoğan said referring to not surrendering to terrorism.

The United States is supportive of rekindled peace talks but should continue to vigilantly monitor the situation between the Kurds and the Turks. The only way for peace talks to succeed is for both parties to come together with the agenda of compromise. They must work on building trust, first. The United States should work to encourage this as the window of opportunity for negotiations are closing.