NURAY MERT > The Kurds and the conservatives

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When will Turkish democrats eventually face up to reality, I wonder? Some claim that they were shocked by the statements of Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, as if they do not live in this country and have just arrived from the moon.

In fact, the minister proved to be capable of surprising even the most realistic observers of Turkish politics, when he stated that there was nothing to apologize for in the Uludere incident. He also added that “those who were killed would have been detained for smuggling; their death overshadowed their crime.”

Soon after, the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik denounced Şahin’s statements as “inhuman.” Çelik gave many pro-government and democratic writers the chance to claim that Şahin’s statements do not reflect the view of the government and the AKP in general. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quick to fall short of expectations.

He first called on everyone not to speak out on the topic anymore, “because he is the president of the AKP” (if not the president of Turkey, yet). He then backed up the remarks of his minister by repeating that there will be no apology, that those who were killed were indeed smugglers, and that “no one can legitimize smuggling.”

I have always thought that Erdoğan and the AKP were not hypocritical concerning finding a solution to the Kurdish question. Erdoğan genuinely wanted to solve the Kurdish issue: The problem was not about his sincerity but his about understanding of how to solve the problem. He simply wanted Kurds to give up their political demands and accommodate the policies of the government. Otherwise, they would prove to be “terrorists,” “friends of terrorists” and above all, “enemies of the country.” This is how and why we have come to this point, and it is no surprise.

On one hand, Erdoğan is a typical authoritarian leader who does not like to be challenged. On the other, this political mindset is not limited to the prime minister: His party firmly represents the right-wing political tradition in Turkey, which is authoritarian and highly nationalistic. The democrats of Turkey have long focused on the authoritarian characteristics of republicanism, but have neglected the fact that similar traits exist in the conservative political tradition. The conservatives of Turkey have never been less nationalistic concerning Kurdish rights: On the contrary, right-wing militants used to accuse leftists of being pro-Kurdish enemies of Turkey’s unity, in the 1960s and 70s.

If we go further back, it is true that there were some disagreements among the founding fathers of the Turkish Republic concerning the Kurdish issue. And those founders with conservative leanings were even more anti-Kurdish. General Fevzi Çakmak, a hero of the conservatives, was not only the commander of the Dersim massacre, but was also famously opposed to the promotion of education in the southeast, saying “We cannot even cope with ignorant Kurds, how we will cope when they are educated?”

Another conservative hero, General Karabekir, opposed recruiting Kurds for the army, to prevent them from learning to use modern weapons.

In short, bringing the Kurdish issue to this point has been a joint effort of all Turkish political parties, and now it seems that an absolute power of conservatives will take their turn at demonstrating absolute power to the Kurds. God forbid, and save us from the consequences.


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5/28/2012 9:55:00 PM

Cyprus has not been Greek in over a thousand years and even then they arrived there as invaders originally. This mentality is the prefect proof why Greeks, as an immature and troublesome people with huge chips on their shoulders, have led themselves from one disaster after another since their invention and creation by Europeans. They still stubbornly deny the existence of Turkish Cypriots with Hitlerian logic. No need to add more here.


5/28/2012 7:39:30 PM

Please, lets get real. What do Kurds have to show for in their thousands of years of miserable existence? What has been their contribution to our democracy and human civilization? None. Is it always someone else's fault? Criminals committing crime in the middle of the night in a war zone got killed by mistake. What is this have anything to do with Kurdish issue? Except that crime seems to be a legitimate occupation in those circles?

Michael Cleverley

5/28/2012 6:03:02 PM

Excuse an English lover of Turkey having an opinion here. At the founding of the Turkish Republic Nationalism was natural and inevitable. The Ottomans inflicted a dangerous legacy which Ataturk had to defuse. His aim, to create a strong capitalist Turkey, free from foreign intervention. Circumstances are very different today. It is positive that modern Turks are demanding more say in what Government does.

ismail demir

5/28/2012 4:10:18 PM

@cyprus, Cyprus is not greek since 1191 although in opposite, Turkey is turkish at last millenium. Greeks first should learn to behave according to their signatures (1960 agreement) rather than giving advise to someone.

Nuri Gotham

5/28/2012 1:04:46 PM

Turkish and Kurdish alliance goes back to the times of Saladdin and Zengi of middle ages. It is the mere nationalism, ignorance fed by religious tendencies and chararcteristics of modern Turkish republic that contributes the ongoing limbo state of Kurdish-Turkish affairs.Kurds in Turkey have been treated as outcast by both; conservative and leftist/liberal Turks.That makes Turkey an outcast among international community.

Zlatan Zinho

5/28/2012 12:07:46 PM

An outstanding article. That said, I do wonder if anyone has spotted that the AKP are putting themselves in a very difficult position with their actions. If the new constitution is remotely in line with those of the better democracies, then all minority groups in Turkey (including the Kurds) will be in a much stronger position vis a vis the state, something which could have real consequences for the current government.

Deniz Can

5/28/2012 11:05:24 AM

PART1 The Republic was found on the strong basis of Turkish nationalism. Turkish nationalism was seen as a roof, democracy as one of its component. While this ideology strengthened the nationalism, prevented the development of democracy. If the democracy had been taken as a roof, on the other hand nationalism, religion, ethnicity as a component of democracy, all these components would have enjoyed their rights as soon as the roof/democracy was developed.The state still has got a strong character

Deniz Can

5/28/2012 11:03:44 AM

Because the state still has got a strong nationalistic character, it insists on conservative solution with fear of losing one part of the land. However, the reality shows that because of the economic interdependence boundaries are disappearing. Example, the EU and Balkan countries were fighting against each other are planning to join the EU. In conclusion, there is no logical basis to believe that Turkey will be divided. In addition, there is a strong tie between Kurds and Turks to live together
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