Our conflicts: For peace, dialogue and change!

The success of the Irish peace process has established templates that many armed groups are eager to adapt to their national struggle.

Eta, the paramilitary wing of the Basque separatist movement, announces a “permanent ceasefire” ending more than 50 years of fighting – a declaration as yet unrecognised by the Spanish government.

In Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) extends its temporary ceasefire until the summer’s general election amid rumours of behind-the-scenes contacts and allegations that “show trials” of Kurdish civic leaders are undermining hopes of reconciliation.

It is the Kurds – whose conflict in southeast Turkey has cost most lives – who have most to gain from the experience of more advanced peace processes. The BDP succeeded the Democratic Society party – Turkey’s main Kurdish party – , which was banned in 2009 over alleged links to the PKK.

Fayik Yagizay, the BDP’s representative in Brussels, said: “We believe the Irish example is a good one for the Kurdish conflict. Turkey says the PKK is a terrorist organisation and that they won’t talk to it – but they said that in the UK even when the government was talking [to the IRA] in secret.

“Everyone knows there’s a dialogue between the Turkish state and Abdullah Öcalan [the imprisoned leader of the PKK] but we don’t know its content and it seems it may be for stopping the fighting and not a solution. Without dialogue it’s impossible to solve these questions.”

The Conflicts

Northern Ireland conflict: 1968-1998

The Provisional IRA has decommissioned its weapons and disbanded. Sinn Féin, its onetime political wing, now forms part of the power-sharing executive in the devolved Northern Ireland assembly at Stormont. Dissident splinter groups with little political support, such as the Real IRA, continue the “armed struggle”.

Deaths: 3,500

Basque conflict: 1959-2011

“Permanent ceasefire” declared by Eta on 10 January this year. A new political party, Sortu, formed to contest elections. Renouncing violence, it hopes to open up a dialogue with the Spanish government to advance its ultimate aim: an independent Basque homeland.

Deaths: about 1,200

Kurdish conflict: 1984-present day

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ party) has extended its temporary ceasefire until after the Turkish election in June. The Kurdish BDP has 20 deputies in the Turkish parliament; members have been accused of supporting the PKK and several are currently on trial in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.

Deaths: approaching 40,000.


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