Which end of the egg to eat?
Democracy is a difficult game to play. It has its rules. Some play it well, some play it badly. But, coming up with a claim that “We have a Turkish-style democracy” is nothing but a confession that in Turkey there is a government system which is a hybrid in nature; elements of democratic governance mixed with a culture of power-worshipping and an oppressive government understanding.
I was going through a rather interesting interview by Ahmet Şık with separatist chieftain Cemil Bayık on the Cumhuriyet website while, as usual, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was speaking at a ceremony in Balıkesir. I wonder what else President Erdoğan might be doing when he is very rarely not speaking, or yelling, somewhere in the country or abroad?
Bayık was speaking clearly. He was stressing the following:
1- The time has come for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) chief Abdullah Öcalan – who is serving an enforced life term at the İmralı island prison – to be given back his freedom. Why? Because only he, appearing in front of PKK “guerillas,” can convince them to lay down arms. Is it possible? Well, why not? Because Bayık believed Öcalan, or any other PKK terrorist, did not commit any crime as the “defense of a people cannot be a crime.”
2- Bayık was demanding either Öcalan be allowed to travel to the Kandil Mountain dens of the PKK – the whereabouts of which are no longer a secret, even journalists are making “safe” trips there – or Bayık and some other top brass of the PKK must be taken to İmralı for a face-to-face talk with Öcalan. Teleconferences and such means were unacceptable. What has been done in the “Kurdish opening” so far is indicative of the fact that if there is political will, anything can happen and irrespective of how odd it might be, because of the strong urge of the Turkish public for a peaceful resolution, the nation will buy the explanation made by the government. Indeed that was what Bayık said when asked if such great expectations were possible or politically realistic.
3- The Kurdish problem and other problems of Turkey can all be solved democratically, or, when Turkey becomes a real democracy, such problems cease to exist. Perhaps the most accurate assessment made by Bayık was this. Turkey has religious, ethnic, cultural and sexual minorities and these minorities are under constant oppression, be they Alevis, Kurds, Christians or people with different sexual preferences. With a real democratic order in this country, all those different colors of Turkish society will find a place for themselves under the sun, or a reflection of their distinctive color in the giant Turkish painting. Having real democratic governance, however, will not be possible before all such differences – whatever form they might be – are subjected to osmosis, or forced to succumb to the majority group but allowed to surface with their own nuances and colors.
On the radio, Erdoğan was talking about the harmony of the nation, the existence of many minorities in the country and of course the need to democratically solve their problems; a perfectly-worded statement form the president, for a change. He must be reading from a text written by an intellectually sober aide. But if it is Erdoğan who is speaking, one must always be prepared to be surprised by off-the-text flip-flops. He declared there was no Kurdish problem in Turkey, but only a democratic deficiency issue that will be resolved. “All elements (minorities) composing this nation have problems of their own. There is no Kurdish problem. I said that in 2005 in Diyarbakır and the process was closed down. We said at the time, the Kurdish problem is our problem and now we have closed down that chapter. … Because we love the created because of our love for the creator,” he said.
No one should try to make out a meaning from what he said; that would be a futile effort. Yet, the meaning is there: Not only Kurds, all minorities have problems. If we solve the overall democratic deficiencies of Turkey, all such problems will be solved.
Well, what is the difference between what was said by the terrorist chieftain Bayık and Erdoğan? We may hate either or both of these two personalities, or adore them. The thesis that problems should be solved within democracy is one which must be valid. Yet, whether or not Öcalan is released, whether an amnesty will be issued for the terrorists (or should we start calling them guerillas?) or not is a very complicated question. An amnesty that might include Öcalan might be a must at the end of this process, if the process is to end with real success. But, should not Turkey be given the chance to see the laying down of arms first?
The chicken or the egg, or from which side should we start to eat the egg?
Do we have the egg at all? Most of us are still trying to find an answer to this.