Ocalan’s arrest starts Turkey toward peace

Following the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish Workers Party, PKK, violent demonstrations spread across the world. The Turkish government must give Ocalan a fair trial and relax its grip on southeastern Turkey, or the violence will not only continue, but escalate.
From Sydney, Australia, to Ottawa, Canada, Kurds stormed embassies and rallied in the streets to protest the arrest of their leader. For the past 14 years, the PKK has been waging an armed rebellion against the Turkish government in the hope of obtaining a Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, which they would call Kurdistan. The conflict has claimed over 37,000 lives since 1984.
Kurdish dissidence is much older than the 14-year PKK-led insurrection, however. Kurds have been in southeast Turkey since long before nomadic Turkish peoples invaded. For more than 1,000 years, Kurds have struggled against Turks, and later Arabs, to retain their land and culture.
This ancient conflict demands a resolution. The turning point may be now, with the capture of Ocalan, an advocate of violent rebellion. Without Ocalan acting as a spokesman for violence, the chains which have constricted the region can be broken, and a peaceful resolution becomes a genuine possibility.
The vast majority of the 12 million Kurds in Turkey live in peace with their ethnic Turkish neighbors, ethnicity rarely becoming a matter of concern. However, this relative harmony exists with institutional discrimination against Kurds, a fact that often drives Kurds to be incited by violent rhetoric.
Pro-Kurdish political parties are only tacitly allowed to exist. Parties calling for an independent Kurdish state are not. While the use of the Kurdish language in public arenas was only recently allowed under Turkish law, Kurdish media is still being suppressed. The Turkish military has launched massive operations against Kurds in the past, leading to civilian deaths and the decimation of entire Kurdish villages.
On the other hand, the PKK has been involved in countless bombings, shootings and kidnappings in Turkey and in Europe. Most recently, Kurds have stormed embassies, taking diplomats and their families hostage, and attacked police officers in the name of Ocalan and rebellion.
With the removal of Ocalan, the path toward a political resolution has been cleared. A violent protagonist has been neutralized. Turkey’s tendency to meet Kurdish resistance with violence must likewise be neutralized.
Turkey must provide Ocalan with a fair trial that is open to the world. At present, Turkey is not allowing foreign observers, including Ocalan’s German lawyer, to attend the trial. Rectifying this situation will be the first step toward establishing a dialogue between pro-separatist Kurds and the Turkish government.
Turkey must avoid an attitude of revenge toward Ocalan or risk renewed, intensified violence at home and in Europe. If Turkey wishes to remain on good terms with its European allies, most notably Germany, than it must seek a peaceful, political resolution to the Kurdish problem.