Forward, More Forward!
The PKK pull-out is great news and a significant step forward that is not to be taken lightly. Nevertheless, it must be forward in two ways.
We all know that, the government still expects “the other side” to take steps forward to ensure the end of the so-called “armed struggle.” The majority of public opinion expects the other side to take even more steps forward to feel convinced. Moreover, the opposition parties urge the government to take steps back to make sure that nothing will change under the roof of the Turkish Republic. All that is unrealistic and therefore unlikely. There is a great change not to be missed by narrow-mindedness and it is to be narrow-minded to pressure the Kurdish movement even further by the government on one hand, and to pressure the government not to move forward, on the other.
The future of the peace process depends on mutual trust more than anything else, however it is something very difficult to achieve and there is no need to make it more difficult. So far, the Kurdish movement managed to tame the great expectations of its supporters but it must not be taken for granted neither by the government, nor by the opposition. Finally, Turkish public opinion should accept the reality that at some stage reconciliation for one party (Turks) cannot be achieved at the expense of the humiliation of the other (Kurds). Kurds may feel alienated from the process if it starts to feel like a pardon by Turks in return for the surrender and regret of Kurds.
It is indeed difficult to alter the opposite perceptions concerning the Kurdish issue. It is that “the problem of terror” for one side is a matter of “freedom struggle” for the other, “a hidden agenda with regard to separatism” for one side is the legitimate demand for more autonomy and some sort of political status for the other, and so forth. Nonetheless, unless the gap between opposite perceptions is narrowed in the process there can be no prospect of peace and resolution. That is why the effort to overcome the current antagonistic perceptions is one of the most important challenges and has to be taken seriously.
For a start, the issue of Kurdish gains should cease to be a taboo. The Turks are so accustomed to refusing to recognize “the legitimacy of Kurdish demands” that it becomes a big deal and controversy to talk about the political achievement of Kurds. In the eyes of the majority of Turks, as well as of the opposition, the “Kurdish gains,” if real, can be taken as the evidence of the betrayal of national interests by the current government. Unfortunately, the government falls into this trap either due to pressures from many sides, or due to similar convictions. As long as the government itself is resentful of Kurdish rights and at best is willing to present the democratic advances concerning Kurdish rights as matters of “benevolence,” the opposition attacks them as “concessions.” As long as the government is also willing to acknowledge the legitimacy of Kurdish demands and gains, it turns to be a sort of “guilt” to be used by the opposition. That is why we need a more mature political discussion to get out of this vicious circle.
Nevertheless, the government still refuses to see that unless it makes clear “the facts of political life;” that the Kurdish issue is a political conflict to be solved, that political solutions depend on some sort of negotiations, and that political negotiations are part of democratic politics, the opposition and nationalist public opinion will keep pressuring the government and endangering the process.