By Taha Ozhan
The president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani’s upcoming visit for the weekend, has already achieved historic importance. Barzani will be travelling to Diyarbakır with Prime Minister Erdoğan. Famous Kurdish singer Şivan Perwer will be in Diyarbakır on the same day after more than 30 years in exile. These developments add up to affirm the once and for all refutation of the secularist-nationalist claims imposed on the people for decades. It was precisely for this reason that nationalist reactions to this visit were raised without delay. Erdoğan is once again accused of dividing the country.
The Kemalists, on the other hand, claim all that was achieved by the secular state has been forfeited.
The nationalists are not alone in their reactions. Political actors close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) also explicitly voice their discontent about Barzani’s visit to Diyarbakir. They claim this is nothing but an electoral campaign move on Erdoğan’s part. These claims are meaningless. It is obvious to all that the chances for Erdoğan’s party to win in Diyarbakır are extremely slim. If that is the case, why are the PKK circles so vexed about the visit? The discontent, at least partially, stems from a blood feud with Barzani that goes back to the 90s. Besides, nationalist sentiments put aside, PKKis an organization that would consider Barzani an ideological enemy. If Barzani’s party, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), were available in Turkey, it would have been a target for PKK as other Kurdish political parties experienced in the past. Another partial and more relevant reason is that PKK’s Syria extension PYD’s alliance with Assad has been a troublesome issue both for the opposition forces and Barzani.
Barzani, particularly for the last month, made his stance against PYD known. Not to mention, Barzani has been seizing on to a deep strategic alliance with Turkey in the recent years.
It is necessary to mention another group to the column of those who are displeased with Barzani—the leftist-liberal Turkish intelligentsia who stand close to PKK. This group that has been so worked up about the resolution of the Kurdish issue for the last few years, are now worked up about the possibility of the involvement of another party in process. They interpret strengthening Turkey-Barzani relations as “dividing the Kurds” or “resolving the Kurdish issue in Erbil”. Neither of these claims corresponds to reality. At the bottom of all these incoherent approaches lies PKK’s lack of a practical and immediately realizable vision for the future of Kurds not only in Turkey, but also in Iraq and Syria.
The fact that Barzani will be visiting Diyarbakir with the Prime Minister has particular importance for Turkey’s republican history. In a way, this is a move towards making the social and political boundaries determined by the Sykes-Picot meaningless. Real and sustainable Kurdish Peace in Turkey can be achieved only when the Sykes-Picot borders are rendered insignificant. It is not surprising that Turkish and Kurdish Kemalists reacted to the visit in kind. As a matter of fact, they have been holding guard on different fronts of Sykes-Picot for more than a century.