A new guide for world conflicts
When I read the column of Taha Özhan in this paper (April 12), I couldn't figure out if he was serious or just kidding us. If he is serious, it is worrying to see how governmental circles are planning to handle the peace process with Kurds.
Özhan (who is also the head of the SETA think tank, which is affiliated with the Foreign Ministry), first reminds us that the Kurdish problem “stemmed from the rationale of modern Turkey and its nation-state.” Nowadays, it is quite popular to explain the Kurdish conflict in terms of the shortcomings of the rise of the nation-state and nationalism. It is very true, but all modern political conflicts resulted from the rise of nation-states and nationalisms, so what is so special about the Kurdish case and how can this truism help us to solve the problem? Well, in the mind of conservatives, secular republicans were the only ones who created the problem and since they have been eliminated from power now, everything will be fine.
In fact, the construction of the Turkish nation-state and of the exclusive Turkish national identity was the joint venture of conservatives, as well as secular Republicans. The task of building the solid Turkish state passed from the secular founding fathers of the Republic to the conservative nationalists, especially after the 1960s. I do not know what Özhan thinks of all those years of conservative governments, but it doesn't seem to be a problem for him, since he starts to put the blame on left-wing intellectuals rather than the republican state at some point and claims that “the universe of the Kurdish question as we know it emerged out of the hegemony of left-wing intellectuals.”
Never mind that Turkey has always been a right-wing country, it was the “left-wing hegemony” in his mind. In fact, it is true that, for a long time, it was the socialist left which cared and collaborated with Kurdish political circles and both suffered as a result of state policies, especially under military coups. At the time, starting from the 1960s, conservatives began accusing left-wingers not of defining the Kurdish problem along their ideological lines as Taha Özhan claims today, but also of “inventing Kurdishness” to dissolve “the last Turkish state.” A pamphlet published in 1969 (Ankara, Kardeş Yayınları), by the “National Turkish Students Association” (MTTB), states that “extreme leftists present East Anatolian people as Kurds, but in fact they come from Oghuz tribes” on its opening page and concludes that “those who think they are Kurds come from a branch of Turkish-origin Oghuz tribes, they are all Turks and it is proved scientifically,” on its last page.
I might not feel like engaging in such a debate on who is responsible most for the Kurdish conflict unless Özhan elaborates his thesis along the same lines for a solution. Unfortunately, he does so, and claims that it has not been possible so far to solve the Kurdish problem since left-wing intellectuals “attempted to find answers in the West, including in ‘conflict resolution’ literature, to no avail.” He concludes that “Had they known, however, the merits of a simple dinner that people of Anatolia used to cease numerous blood feuds over thousands of years,” nobody would be surprised by the government’s easy handling of the Kurdish problem.
I wonder if he also considers suggesting this “non-Western approach” (which is appropriate for the “universe of Kurds and Turks” as he calls it) to replace conflict resolution literature for all non-Western world conflicts. It may be of great help for humanity, since Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians and many others in the greater Middle East have similar traditions of ending blood feuds, but haven't been able to think of ending their conflicts through traditional ways. It must be the hegemony of left-wingers in those countries who are hindering smooth solutions; shame on them!