Do Erdoğan and Karayılan See Eye to Eye?

As the leader of the Republic of Turkey, according to Article 104 of our constitution, I declare a national mobilization against the PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party], DEASH [an Arabic abbreviation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], FETÖ [the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization], DHKP-C [the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front] and all other terrorist organizations, whatever their names, arguments or method. (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, 14 December 2016)

This statement came only three days after the explosion that left 44 dead in Istanbul. In a week, the second bomb exploded in the province of Kayseri, relatively small yet an important place for the ruling party’s conservative votes, killing 14.

Murat Karayılan, the head of KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union), did not step back. He pointed the target in a way that was not framed that explicitly so far. Having conditioned his threat on the possibility that Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), would be killed as a result of a joint clandestine understanding formed by the ruling AKP and the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party); Karayılan said that the Battalion of Immortals could assassinate political leaders.

One might argue that the Turkish desire to advance its military operation in al-Bab could be a valid reason for Karayılan’s salvos. Maybe, based on a simple prediction that Ankara will have a massive problem with Moscow when the jihadists backed by the Turks in Aleppo hit the Russians (therefore, the consensus among Turkey and Russia), Karayılan made a strategic move to turn the Turkish territories into a mine field.

There are actually two other reasons that make Karayılan’s statement very important. Firstly, the nationalistic content of this message is to the Kurdish people who have not been able to mobilize in the way the Kurdish leadership desired, particularly after the arrests of the prominent leaders of the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party). Actually, this lack of stimulating interest did emerge after severe military operations in southeastern provinces in summer 2015. Hence, we need to read the Kayseri bombing as a strategic attempt to canalise anti-Kurdish behaviour to provoke and boost Kurdish civil action – an action that would be expected to gather around the PKK umbrella, of course. Secondly, the message is to Ankara. For the first time, the PKK leadership showed its discomfort of Ankara’s politics and drew its red line. Here is the message: If the HDP becomes less effective because of the operations against Kurdish politics, there will be no game to play.

Well, what if Ankara does not care? Would the PKK dare to take whatever necessary to reset the rules of the game and go for a civil war?

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