The resolution process and AK Party
The story of the AK Party’s involvement in the Kurdish issue is unprecedented in Turkish political history. For years, getting involved in the Kurdish issue meant getting involved with the establishment in Turkey. There were two great fears the tutelage regime successfully instilled as the two biggest threats to the nation: Islamism and separatism. From the perspective of the military tutelage order, Islam and Islamism are to a great extent represented by the AK Party. The military tutelage carried out the 1997 coup precisely to eliminate “this threat.” The AK Party came to power five years after the coup. It was not anticipated that a political party that itself was perceived as “a threat” would take a firm stance on the “other threat.” The AK Party, unprecedentedly, took this risk. It announced its intention to work on a resolution to the Kurdish issue in its political program published before it came to power. Erdoğan’s visit to Diyarbakır in 2005 was a turning point where he declared, “My response to those who ask ‘What about the Kurdish issue,’ is this: As the prime minister of this country the Kurdish issue is my issue.” This was an important statement at a time when the Kurdish issue could not even be uttered.
Erdoğan, whose party was the target of an attempted coup by the military-judiciary tutelage on April 27th, 2007 and of an attempt to disband in 2008, did not have the opportunity to put the Kurdish issue on its agenda again until 2009. In 2009, the AK Party, after having made headway in its struggle with the military tutelage, for the first time in Turkish history launched an official democratic initiative in order to bring a resolution to the Kurdish issue. Even though the AK Party could not achieve everything it set out to during the initiative, it managed to get its constituency and the elite to be more responsive to the imminent changes on the Kurdish issue. As such, the 2009 initiative was in fact a preamble to the 2013 resolution process. It seems that in this resolution process the AK Party alone will carry the weight of democratization. If this process, which has already begun with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) disarmament and retreat from Turkey, results in sustainable peace, the AK Party will have efficiently debunked the alleged Islamism and separatism threats invented by the nation state.
Modern Turkey, founded on the legacy of an empire, spent most of the 20th century trying to actualize the Kemalist state and its society project. At the turn of the 21st century, Turkey was an economically bankrupt and ideologically meaningless nation state with depleted resources and four military coups in its trail. Erdoğan carried the country away from an undeclared bankruptcy into a great transformation in 10 years. The Kurdish issue and the PKK are the most difficult obstacles in Erdoğan’s path to complete this transformation. Turkey can finalize its consolidation if these obstacles are overcome. I will continue by analyzing what the AK Party did on the Kurdish issue.