Going into its second year, the KCK trial has advanced little, while it has spawned several political crises that have brought efforts to resolve the Kurdish issue to a standstill.
By Ozgur Ogret for Southeast European Times in Istanbul -- 29/08/11
KCK defence lawyers staged a protest in April. [Reuters]
The Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) trials have topped the Kurdish agenda since 2009, but have gained even more importance in the post-June 12th general election environment.
About 4,000 Kurds are being tried in the scope of several trials related to the KCK. There is a KCK trial in every province in Turkey with a court of special authority. The detained include elected officials and many members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the now-defunct Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP)
The BDP is boycotting parliament over the arrest of five legally elected deputies and their being prevented from entering parliament on allegations they belong to KCK.
As a result, the prospect of political dialogue to solve the Kurdish issue has been replaced by political deadlock and an escalating cycle of violence that threatens to derail any chance of ending over 30 years of violence.
According to Turkish news agencies, KCK is described as either the "urban wing" or "civil arm" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an organisation recognised as terrorist by Turkey, the EU and the US.
However, in a recent Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) report, "Down from the Mountains: How the PKK will give up the gun", written by veteran journalist and scholar Cengiz Candar, the structure and ideology of KCK is explained in detail.
According to Candar, the KCK is an executive organ of the PKK, acting as an umbrella co-ordinating the parties and organisations active in the Kurdish geography within the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
"KCK is envisaged as a bottom-up [grassroots] organisation. Within it, it is represented by the Youth Council, Women's Council, and five different councils in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and a council claiming to represent Kurds living outside these countries, along with the PKK, [among others]. From these councils, 300 delegates are represented in Kongra Gel, KCK has the quality of being a type of legislative organ or parliament."
Hatip Dicle is one of the elected BDP MPs being blocked from entering parliament. [Reuters]
KCK was founded according to the principles of "Democratic confederalism" by PKK's convicted leader Abdullah Ocalan, presented as both an alternative to the nation-state and a solution to the problems of the Middle East.
According to Candar, the concept of "Democratic autonomy" as announced by the BDP, is related to the concept of "Democratic confederalism", and is one of the goals of KCK.
The KCK is an alternative state structure with all necessary organs. It has a charter that can be considered its constitution, alongside executive and legal bodies, Diyarbakır Bar Association head Mehmet Emin Aktar told SETimes.
"The truth is, KCK is an illegal formation. However, when viewed from the other side, maybe it is possible to see the legalisation effort of the PKK through this formation, through KCK," he said.
The BDP holds many municipalities in southeastern Turkey that are being co-ordinated by KCK, Aktar explained, revealing the extent of the organisation's reach.
"The state says this co-ordination is being made in the name of the PKK, therefore, everybody in this local governments' commission are members of PKK. That is the claim. When viewed from this angle, of course, this legalisation effort comes to naught."
He added, however, the problem is that the suspects are being tried as members of an armed organisation. "When you handle the matter with its criminal aspect, such an operation may be justified. However, when you perceive it from the angle of solving a political problem, it is possible to say this operation and trial is inflicting a very heavy blow on the solution of the Kurdish issue."
The KCK case has triggered many street protests and riots. [Reuters]
Aktar says the state should clear the path of democratic politics if it intends to end the armed struggle of the PKK. "If you criminalise thousands of people who took part in no armed action, no bombing action, and start to try them as members of a criminal organisation, you block that path," he said.
However, Emin Ekmen, a lawyer and former deputy of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) from the southeastern province of Batman, disagreed.
"If you prefer to practice legal politics according to the laws of the Republic of Turkey, you have to place distance between illegality and yourself. We cannot expect the government of Turkey to accept that some members of illegal formations are practicing legal politics at the same time."
According to author and columnist Mustafa Akyol, KCK is "a grey area". He doubts KCK is not involved in violent actions as Aktar claims, but he agrees that KCK "is a formation which may be a part of Turkey's policy of disarming the PKK and calling them to legal politics".
However, Akyol argues that the reason behind the KCK trials is not an effort to solve the Kurdish issue, but to provide security, which is among the reasons for the existence of any state.
When the first wave of arrests began in 2009, pro-government circles argued that this operation was necessary for the democratisation of Kurdish politics and would set Turkey on a path for the solution of the Kurdish issue. However, these voices are now increasingly rare.
Aktar, Ekmen and Akyol all agree that the trial has no practical value for the solution of the Kurdish issue, though for different reasons.
Aktar explains that the AKP was consulted by people who know nothing about the Kurdish people and the region, which led the government to believe "if we jail this formation, the remaining ones are the good Kurds; we would solve this matter with them." But this approach brought the matter to a dead end because it underestimated the organisational strength of the Kurdish movement, according to Aktar.
This is because, as Ekmen explains, when you arrest KCK members, new people are being assigned to their positions and nothing changes.
The KCK is a formation with a social base behind it and this kind of pressure against it backfires, which may result in PKK becoming even more radical, says Akyol.