A dangerous barter…
If this country will ever achieve a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish problem, one key component of such a deal ought to be the declaration of a general amnesty. That is the paradox most Turks supporting a resolution of this gangrenous problem find themselves in. For the sake of social, national peace, can Turkey indeed forgive people held responsible for the loss of over 40,000 people over the past almost 30 years in separatist terrorism related violence?
To overcome this paradox the Turkish society must be gradually prepared for the idea of such a probability. Political opportunism so far has been serving Turks one dose of progressive and pro-resolution approach; then at least three doses of sheer nationalism and “love or leave Turkey” rhetoric that further aggravates the problem. However, the government knows very well that after making a deal not only separatist chieftain Abdullah Öcalan, serving an enforced life-term, but thousands of other members of the gang or Kurdish activists just cannot stay long in prison. Such a development would not be a concession to the terrorists but a requirement of a peaceful resolution. To remove the remaining scars of the traumatic period on the Turkish society, an amnesty is a must. Otherwise if not healed with an amnesty, this wound will continue to bleed.
Yet, which courageous politician will tell the families of the fallen soldiers or the civilians killed by the gang why the state decided to free those people responsible for the deaths of their sons, daughters, or fathers? However, if Turkey will reach an honorable peace with its Kurdish people there is absolutely need for courageous politicians who could declare “tabula rasa” or a new blank page. A Kurdish opening with lofty statements that there would be no amnesty cannot be a sincere opening.
Does the government intend to walk that dangerous and perhaps politically costly road? According to one of the abundant and rather speculative scenarios in Ankara’s political quarters Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been quite aware of the amnesty need as well as the political cost of it. How to offset this political cost? One dangerous idea, as reported also by Daily News editor Murat Yetkin earlier this week, is to have some sort of a barter: “a political amnesty not only for Öcalan and the PKK prisoners, but for all Ergenekon (and related cases like Balyoz – Sledgehammer).”
This “barter amnesty” has been off and on the discussion topics of political corridors of Ankara from the very early days of the Ergenekon thriller case was launched more than six years ago. Former top general İlker Başbuğ, who was sentenced to life this week on grounds that he was leader of the “Ergenekon gang” which aimed at toppling the elected government, and many others sentenced within the Ergenekon trial have said repeatedly that they would rather die in prison than be released under such a barter amnesty.
Indeed, such a barter amnesty would be counterproductive and might unleash very dangerous repercussions. The moment the government officially unveils an amnesty intention it will come under strong accusations from nationalists that it surrendered to the demands of Öcalan and the gang. At the very least, people will ask whether those sentenced under Ergenekon are indeed the government’s hostages, the freedom of whom will be traded by the government in talks with the gang.
I wish all Muslim readers of the Daily News a very happy Ramadan Bayram.