A woman warrior’s tough love

A woman warrior’s tough love

Ankara’s recent talks with the Kurds have come to a critical juncture. As the delegation of Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Pervin Buldan and İdris Baluken has now been joined by Hatip Dicle and Leyla Zana, the political weight of the negotiations seems to have shifted from cease-fire to autonomy/federalism.

Both Dicle and Zana were in Parliament in the dark, stormy days of the 1990s. They were the first political hostages of the war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). They paid a big price for their political stance, and probably became the first to understand the concerns of the Turkish side as well.

The big debate in Ankara is circling around the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) decision to enter the 2015 parliamentary elections as an exclusive party without independent candidates. If it manages to pass the 10 percent threshold, this will be a watershed event in Turkish politics and the HDP may even succeed in recruiting some Republican People’s Party (CHP) MPs to its side. This scenario creates the left-right balance in politics and forces the CHP to move to its Social Democrat Populist Party (SHP) line of the 90s. But if it fails, the HDP loses all of its seats to the Ak Party (ruling Justice and Development Party), thus turning the Turkish Parliament into a rubberstamp legislative body against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which may lead to even more instability.

Most HDP politicians do find the gamble pretty risky, but they think it is time to roll the dice and push the envelope to the voters. They also believe there is enough resistance and opposition in Turkey to make them a mainstream political movement. Selahattin Demirtaş’s Presidential bid was probably the first sign of this.

Bese Hozat, the leading woman in the PKK ranks in Kandil, wrote this in her column in Özgür Gündem on Dec. 24:

“Democratic negotiation is the only thing that can save Erdoğan from death and Turkey from disintegration. A democratic solution to the Kurdish problem and full democratization is the only way for Erdoğan and the Ak Party to survive. And the road to this passes through strengthening the HDP, not weakening it.”

Hozat’s words carry a lot of weight, but also a subtle hint of a threat. She is a symbol of women’s power inside the Kurdish struggle, which has gained the Western media’s sympathy after the siege of Kobane. Hozat’s sheer presence in the peace talks carries the torch for a secular lifestyle for all women in Turkey. In her column, she also calls for the cooperation of all women’s groups to help the HDP pass the threshold and become a party for the “freedom of women.”

Here is the question: Can secular and educated women who have voted for the CHP switch to the HDP? Who should they trust? Önder, who is practically on Whatsapp with Yalçın Akdoğan? Pervin Buldan, who is given very little time and space as a negotiator? Or Hozat, who can actually show her rifle to Erdoğan every time he mentions three children, birth control, etcetera?

Listen to Hozat one more time from her column:

“Democracy weakened as the Ak Party became stronger. They became the state-party and democracy is practically finished. This equation should be turned upside down. A weak Ak Party would mean better and stronger democracy.”

Sounds like things one should hear from Emine Ülker Tarhan or Melda Onur of the CHP. So why not? If women’s votes drove Erdoğan to the top of the Turkish state, it can also move the walls between two parties. But to build trust, one has to believe in the prospects of true peace and justice. If the HDP wants to become the party of the masses in the cities, it has to earn the hearts and minds of the disappointed white-collar workers, students, women, small business owners and even the devout Muslims who are unhappy about the corruption allegations.

Hozat’s words should be heard as often as Karayılan or Akdoğan. After all, peace can only be built between warriors.