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NURAY MERT > Kurds, democrats and leftists; a family saga?

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The latest peace process, which was launched a year ago, created a new and mostly unspoken tension between the Kurdish movement and its liberal, democrat and leftist supporters, on the one hand, and between Alevis and Kurds, on the other.

First of all, the jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan’s emphasis on “historical ties and Islamic solidarity or brotherhood” in last year’s Newroz declaration ignited uneasiness among secular democrats, leftists and Alevis. In addition, the rumor of Kurdish support for the presidential system in return for Kurdish rights increased skepticism. Then, the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) initial reluctance to participate in the Gezi demonstrations also resulted in controversy. Most recently, its recognition of the Dec. 17 and 24 graft scandal as a “coup” and “international plot” against the government only contributed to the tension. Under the circumstances, even some democratic and leftist arch critics of Kemalism shockingly voted for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) only to maintain a counter force against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his party and the authoritarian sway in Turkey. Some members of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the Kurdish-leftist coalition party, also debated the priority of the challenge of authoritarianism. Each time, the BDP and the Kurdish movement in general responded by emphasizing the Kurds’ commitment to the cause of democracy, and the fact of the inseparability of the Kurdish cause from the cause of democracy for all of Turkey.

Indeed, the ideology of the Kurdish movement has never been narrowly nationalistic. On the contrary, the PKK-BDP line has always underlined its difference from nationalistic Kurdish parties and circles. Öcalan and his movement have always been proud of defending Kurdish rights and freedoms in connection with a more general egalitarian and democratic political framework. It was mostly Turks and even leftist and democratic Turks who insisted on defining Öcalan’s party and movement as “nationalistic” from the beginning to the end. In fact, it was the initial insensitivity concerning the Kurdish question among the Turkish leftist movements that created the first friction between Öcalan and his leftist friends.

Nevertheless, now Öcalan and his movement have been offered “a deal” by a Turkish government, the peace process is all about the negotiation of the deal. It would be something to celebrate for Kurds and their true friends - be they liberals, democrats and non-Orthodox leftists - if only the Turkish counterpart of the deal was not an autocrat. But since this is the case, the current situation poses a great dilemma for both the Kurds and their friends. On the one side, regardless of the fact that the Kurdish movement defines itself according to universal democratic and egalitarian values, the Kurdish issue is undeniably a “national issue.” As such, Kurds cannot be accused of considering a deal with whoever in government is offering it. Given the fact that, currently, no other Turkish political party has enough power or willingness to engage in such a deal, it becomes even more compelling for Kurds not to miss this chance. On the other side, the increasingly authoritarian politics of the governing party make it very difficult to turn a blind eye to the concerns over freedoms and democracy in general. Moreover, not only has the problem of trust between the government and the Kurds not sustained, but also it has almost reached the point of suspending the peace process for both sides.

The most recent move by the Kurdish movement to transfer the HDP as its main democratic representation, by asking a majority of the BDP’s deputies to resign from the BDP and join the HDP, further complicated the matter. For Erdoğan, the major issue is now the presidential elections, and then the legal amendments to pave the way for a presidential system. The fact that he will need Kurdish support for his cause will have a great impact on the deals of the peace process.

One does not need to be a fortune teller to foresee that the facts of Turkish politics will push the Kurds toward a very difficult situation and they will be forced to make a tragic choice. I do not know yet how things will evolve for all of the parties involved with the deal and the controversies, but polemics have already started between “the loyal supporters” of the Kurdish movement and “the skeptics.” The prospect of a confrontation within the ranks of Kurdish and Turkish supporters of a democratic and peaceful resolution may lead to a real disaster, which is why I hope the family saga will not lead to a family feud.

May/05/2014

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