How will Turkish protests influence the Kurdish problem?
The Taksim protests gained another, actually several other dimensions as they entered their fourth week, right after Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s showed off in Istanbul on June 16 where he managed to gather hundreds of thousands and said, “This is real Turkey, not Taksim,” addressing the Western media in particular.
That night, the police managed to stop tens of thousands more protestors trying to walk into Taksim square with the help of paramilitary gendarmerie forces. Those security forces could not protect the Istanbul headquarters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the area from the attack of a group of 30-40 people, some of whom were reportedly armed with sticks, cleavers and knives in their hands.
Again that night, a number of trade unions declared a day of strike in support of the Taksim protestors for June 17. The Union of Turkish Bars announced that they would apply to the Council of Europe to look into the human rights violations going on in Turkey for some time.
In the morning of June 17, Interior Minister Muammer Güler warned the public servants that the strike was an illegal one and they would have to face consequences if they took to the streets. Upon a question, he said that the gendarmerie did not count as military, but to call for military support was among his legal powers. More people took to the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and some other streets after Güler’s threat-like warning. In the later hours, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç endorsed that position, saying that the government had the option of calling the military to step in, if they felt it necessary for the public security.
Then Erdoğan took the stage in a routine Ankara program which was televised for almost an hour from nearly all TV stations in Turkey; as it turned into a routine for Turkish mass media. There he denounced the European Union and its Parliament which criticized him because of the excessive use of force by police against the demonstrators and said that EU had “no respect for democracy” (since he had got 50 percent of the votes) and had a “different” understanding of freedoms then his government.
An interesting detail here is that the additional police forces were brought to Istanbul for the Taksim protests and for Erdoğan’s demonstration were from the mostly Kurdish populated east and southeast cities of Şırnak, Batman, Siirt and Diyarbakır. No more police needed there, despite an ongoing international conference on the Kurdish problem in Diyarbakır over the weekend, thanks to Erdoğan’s initiative to start dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in order to find a political solution to the Kurdish problem.
Yet, a declaration made by the Diyarbakır conference on June 17 asking the government to take immediate steps, since the PKK has almost completed the pulling back of its militants from Turkey to their bases in neighboring Iraq, as a promise for the “first phase” of a roadmap for resolution. In the second phase the government was to take a series of legislative steps in the Parliament to get the Kurdish identity more into the Turkish system. The Hürriyet Daily News has the information that the Justice Ministry has been working on a draft, based on a set of proposals by the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in the Parliament which could be submitted to the government within 2-3 weeks.
The question is, how will the Erdoğan government take steps in the Parliament to satisfy the PKK to put an end to the 30 years of armed struggle which has claimed some 40,000 lives so far and demanding a more liberal administrative system, while Erdoğan is eyeing presidency with more powers and less control over it, plus adopting a tougher stance in domestic politics especially regarding freedom of expression and media, a tougher stance in foreign policy, especially regarding the EU which Turkey wants to be a part of? It is not possible to find a satisfying answer to that question under the current circumstances and uncertainty.