Are Kurds socially better equipped than Turks to struggle?

Are Kurds socially better equipped than Turks to struggle?

To me, a Facebook post explained it all. It was posted by someone who worked for Vote and Beyond at a ballot box in Holland. He is not a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) but it was obvious he had voted for them. He shared his observation about a woman who worked as the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) election delegate. The head-scarfed woman told him her story. She came to Holland and got married at a very young age. She raised her four children and was proud that her eldest daughter worked as a police officer. She always dreamed of being a state official. “We have always been looked down,” she said, explaining afterwards how she felt so happy and important when AKP representatives got in touch with her so she could work for the party as a ballot box delegate on election day. “I felt as if I am doing a government job,” she said.

Better economic means, better housing, better health and education services, cheap coal and bread… brush all this aside. The sense of being respected, the sense that someone values you, the sense of empowerment; these also explain the AKP’s electoral victory. 

A European diplomat told me two years ago that the feeling of being respected lay at the core of the AKP’s success. That diplomat could see that fact a year after arriving in Turkey; some Turks still don’t get it.

“Nobody has a right to call anybody ignorant,” was the title of Hürriyet columnist Melis Alphan’s article which was published in the Daily News on Nov. 9. She was criticizing the “schooled segment of Turkish society,” who despised those who voted for the AKP, labelling them as ignorant.

She posted her article on her Facebook by writing: “I have written about the white Turks; no one should get offended or angry.” 

Somebody answered back by writing: “What do you want from white Turks; what bad have they done to you,” implying that whatever bad there is in this country stems from the ruling party and its sympathizers and not the white Turks, an expression used for secular, educated, well-off Turks. 

But the problem is not about what the “white Turks” are doing currently. The problem is about what “they are not doing.”

As underlined by Melis Alphan, they perhaps had good educations but those educations have not taught them active citizenship.

Right after the elections, part of the debates on social media among the “white Turks” was dominated by the theme of “leaving the country.” Some expressed their desires on how they lost hope and that they were looking for ways to leave the country. Others said they did not have the means but were so envious of those who had already left the country. Some others accused those who wanted to leave of being cowards. 

When I see a 70-year-old political activist who has been in jail, tortured in the past, get up the next morning after the Nov. 1 election and go on with his political activities, I wish to ask those who want to leave this country: “When did you get so tired?”  Because the majority of them are in their 30’s or 40’s and for most their struggle dates back to the Gezi park incidents that took place a couple of years ago.

It is not the sense of fulfilling his or her potential or the hope for a better life, but rather a sense of heavy defeat that motivates those who are talking about leaving Turkey. But why does the psychology of defeat weigh heavier on “white Turks” and less on Kurds?

Have Kurds left Turkey? Few of them did, but most had no choice left as they were forced to, since they escaped tremendous persecution. For decades their rights were denied. They were imprisoned, tortured, killed. 

Kurds that have opted for non-violent ways to struggle have not wasted their energies on leaving the country. How come? Do the Kurds love the country called “Turkey,” more than Turks? Do some Turks have weaker bonds to this country that makes it easier for them to consider leaving after a few heavy hits to the face?