Making peace is a difficult task, particularly if the strife to be concluded is one that has been continuing among a family for almost three decades. Worse if the conflict is the 29th such calamity in the past 89 years. Ever since the republic was established this country has lived almost permanently with some sort of uprising.
There must have been some prenatal complications or some very serious discord back in the founding era of the republic, if we have needed all these security measures, all the special courts, the immense suffering and the rivers of mothers’ tears. Obviously many of the Kurdish uprisings of the early republican era were most likely religious rebellions rather than ethnic Kurdish ones. Indeed, for a very long period these two pre-natal problems of the Turkish Republic were mixed up. That was perhaps a product of the Anatolian heartland of the country being far more religious, just as it is now, than were urban areas in the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
The 1925 uprising, for example, was instrumental in forcing the founding fathers of the Turkish Republic to adopt a nation-building program and concentrate on building the new republic on sound foundations of Turkish nationalism, so that it was only two years ago that the first Parliament to include ethnic Kurds convened, with deputies representing the various ethnicities of Anatolia.
If Turkey wants to eliminate the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) separatist terrorist campaign, and not to be confronted in few years time with the 30th uprising, it has to get to the roots of the problem, try to understand those root causes, and develop strategies to eradicate them, without compromising territorial and national integrity. This is not at all an easy task.
If 10, 15 or 20 percent, a rather large segment, of a society has been feeling for decades that it is being ignored, denigrated, and treated as second-class citizens by the rest of the people and, worse, by the government of the country, that country obviously has a very serious problem. If that “minority group” cannot have the right to education or to testify in courts in its mother tongue, which is different from the official language of the country, obviously there is a problem of democracy in that country.
Everything else aside, if thousands of people, including elected mayors, university professors, lawyers, and journalists are placed behind bars, charged with being members of the urban organization of a separatist gang, obviously there is a very serious human rights and democracy problem.
Making peace will be very painful. Ending 30 years of bloodshed will require going through an excruciating process. Yet, unless this agonizing road is taken, the bloodshed will continue. The acts of emptying prisons, forgiving those who have shed blood, and shaking hands with the murderers, as difficult as they are, will not be enough. Turkey will have to eradicate all those nasty prenatal causes, the details that make the Kurds feel they are second-class citizens.
Such a peace cannot be achieved solely by the government, with its habit of playing its cards close to its chest. There is a need for national engagement and the development of a consensus approach.