Turkey's Kurds

July 03, 1993

Turkey can kill the terrorist Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) with firmness toward it and kindness toward Kurds. This it seemed to be doing when the late Turgut Ozal was president and increased Kurdish cultural rights in 1991, and when the PKK called a cease-fire last March. Several things happened. The popularity of PKK went down; Mr. Ozal died; Turkish security forces brutally attacked PKK suspects in southeastern Turkey. The PKK eruption in June is the delayed result.

What motivates Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader operating from exile in Syria-controlled Lebanon, is unclear. But the rash of bombing attacks on Turkish consulates and embassies across Europe and attacks on resorts popular with Europeans on the Turkish coast are his desperate effort to resurrect the rebellion.

Two threats to the PKK loom. One is the desire of Syria to become more respectable. The other threat to the PKK comes from the new Turkish government of Tansu Ciller. She has talked a moderate line of increasing Mr. Ozal's offer of cultural rights for the Kurds, whom he let speak their language and have newspapers. She is talking about schools and Kurdish broadcasts, both overdue.

Many Kurds have assimilated into Turkish society, which is what the repression of Kurdish nationality was meant to achieve. More have not. At least one-fifth of the Turkish guest workers in Germany are Kurds, giving a pan-European dimension to any Turkish-Kurdish civil strife. It is ironic and stupid that Kurdish Marxists are bombing Turkish targets in Germany just when German punk neo-Nazis are doing the same thing.

Mrs. Ciller should have the courage to fight for human rights and cultural freedom for Kurds in Turkey while demanding an end to hospitality for the PKK anywhere. Americans, watching violence plotted in New York by people fomenting rebellion in Egypt, should have no sympathy for the PKK doing the same thing in Germany, Sweden, France and Turkey itself. Syrian dictator Hafez el-Assad should be judged on his tolerance for violence by the PKK as much as his tolerance for other terrorists under his protection.

It is time for the world community to shut the PKK down and for Turkey to let Kurds be Kurdish within Turkey. The two policies need each other.

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