We are losing another chance for peace!
What Turkey needed was some sort of a “negotiated revolution,” a democratic transition to overcome the politics of the rigid secular nation state that created social and political tensions. Yet what we ended up with turned out to be more tension and polarization, especially concerning the Kurdish issue.
The new peace initiative, which began with the meeting of two Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) politicians with Abdullah Öcalan on İmralı, is currently interrupted for “unknown” reasons. The first reason seems to be that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to impose “his own choice of Kurdish politicians” for the possible next meeting with Öcalan, against the will of the BDP. Nevertheless, this is only one expression of a bigger and very serious problem; that Erdoğan and the current government is still far from comprehending the depth of the Kurdish problem. Erdoğan and governmental circles insist on their idea of separating the “terror problem” from the process of democratization and call on the BDP and the wider Kurdish society to distance themselves from the PKK. Nevertheless, the politicized Kurdish society is fully supportive of the “freedom struggle” (as they name it) of the PKK and the BDP can only lose legitimacy by distancing itself from the radical movement.
The recent replacement of the infamous Minister of the Interior, İdris Naim Şahin, could have been a hopeful step if only he had not been replaced by the ex-governor of Istanbul known for his security-based approach. Moreover, the new minister has the dark legacy of the Hrant Dink murder behind him. Obviously, the fact that he is from Mardin was thought to be appealing to Kurds and he himself emphasized this fact in his first speech. Alas, the times when Kurds would be silenced by the appointment of a politician from the southeast region to a high post have long passed. It is very worrying that the government still seems unaware of the simplest facts concerning the Kurds.
In fact, it is not only the current government but opposition parties and the majority of the Turkish public that are still very reluctant to remove their blinkers concerning the Kurdish issue. Only few days ago, a People’s Republican Party (CHP) minister, Birgül Ayman Güler, created fury by declaring that the Turkish nation cannot be thought of as equal with Kurdish ethnicity, in her parliamentary speech. She is a minister from supposedly the “most liberal town” of İzmir and she unfortunately mirrors one of the bitter truths of Turkey. If Güler and the government are very good examples of right-wing, conservative nationalism, the majority of the opposition CHP are the examples of Republican-secular nationalism. The Western coastal towns of Turkey that are known for their liberal lifestyles are not political liberals at all. They are fierce opponents not only of religious freedoms but also of Kurdish rights and freedoms.
If we only had a Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) that represents the ultra-nationalist opposition, and the BDP as the representative of “radical Kurdish politics,” then there could be more chance for Turkey to solve the problem with Kurds. Nevertheless, the problem with the nationalism of the center right and left parties are more serious, since it means that we do not have a middle ground with which to negotiate. Most of the time, Erdoğan sounds no less ultra-nationalist than a MHP minister, and many CHP ministers sound as ultra-nationalist as the MHP’s. Under these circumstances, it seems that once again the chance of peace is slipping away from our hands and it is not only very, very, sad but also very embarrassing for all of us who live in this country.