How to solve a 19th-century problem?
Why did the call of Mr. Cemil Çiçek, the speaker of Parliament, for national reconciliation fall on deaf ears? Once again, PKK activity is on the rise. It was right after the Gaziantep bombing. Everything we see and hear is so much like the early 1990s. We are all frustrated. This time Çiçek’s call was different.
It was in fact a call for everybody to reconsider their positions. It is a call to forget about all past positions and invent a new language to start talking about the Kurdish issue. The speaker himself noted that, 10 years ago, “even under duress,” he could not be forced to speak like that on the Kurdish issue. He personally had the right credentials to start a national dialogue, if you ask me. During his press conference, he gave so many references to Spain, the ETA and the Ajuria Enea accord and the Spanish constitution-making process. All the relevant references are there to make a fresh start.
Why deaf ears then? As far as I see, it only reflects the poverty of the Turkish political elite represented in Parliament with four political parties. There is an absolute poverty of ideas in dealing with this last Kurdish uprising. Turkey has got to find a democratic solution to this age-old problem. In the history of the Turkish republic, there have been so many Kurdish uprisings. This last one started about 30 years ago. It is still continuing. Mr. Çiçek is absolutely right. There is the need for everybody to reconsider their past positions. This is a basic precondition for any solution.
It is also time to reconsider the Turkish transformation process. Thirty years ago, President Özal started laying the basis of a Turkish economic transformation process. Thirty years ago, the PKK-led Kurdish insurgency started. Thirty years ago, Turkish exports were $3 billion worth of agricultural products. At that time, Anatolian cities were sleepy little towns closed to the rest of the word. Today, Turkish exports reached about $130 billion and comprised goods like cars, electronics etc. Our sophistication level has changed. Sleepy little towns of Anatolia have started to integrate into the global economy. We all have learned that we can get rich by being open to the world. And this economic transformation paved the way for social and political change. Look who has been in power in Ankara for the last 10 years. Can you imagine this happening 15 years ago? No. So far so good. Yet, the events show that the PKK-led Kurdish insurgency is still with us despite all this economic-political-social transformation. No progress there.
In the last 30 years, Turkey had a huge success story. In the last 30 years, Turkey had a colossal failure. So colossal that we are still dealing with a 19th-century nation state-building problem in the global world of the 21st century.
From here, there are two choices: we will either focus on finding a 19th-century solution to a problem left from the 19th century. In vain. Or we will focus on finding a creative 21st-century solution. A modern solution.
Today, the Turkish political elite are still looking at the problem with a 19th-century bias. They still do not have a clear-cut idea on how to proceed from here. By the Turkish political elite, I mean all four political parties in Parliament. If you do not know the answer, you cannot lead the people to a solution.
Pathetic, but true. That is why those wise words fell on deaf ears. That is the winter of our discontent.