Profiterole for the Kurds? (re-revisited)

Profiterole for the Kurds? (re-revisited)

In poll after poll, good news surfaces: 95 percent of Turks and Kurds want to live together. Some 60 percent of Turks support the peace process. The Turkish government wants peace, so do the Kurdish politicians, Kurds in southeast Turkey, Kurds in northern Iraq, and so does the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan. Only three actors are absent from the merry parade of walking on eggshells: The main opposition Republican’s People party (CHP), which has a confused mind; the ultra-nationalist MHP, which has an ultra-nationalist mind, and the PKK.

For a better analysis, though, it would be safer to ignore most opinion polls, especially when they look like parts of the public diplomacy leg of the big game for a landmark peace. When you ask your sample a question like, “Do you support efforts to stop the bloodshed?” a 60 percent “Yes” turnout can be considered too low and not very promising to start with. But with or without polls, the Turkish-Kurdish public support for the peace plan is visible – at this early stage.

When I wrote in this column “Profiterole for the Kurds?” on Sept. 10, 2009, I recalled the early days of Mr. Öcalan’s 1998-99 odyssey when a group of Kurds launched a hunger strike in Klafthmonos Square in Athens in protest of his arrest in Rome.

The same square witnessed another event about 10 days after the hunger strike began: A private company and a cookery school made a world record attempt at baking the largest-ever profiterole, weighing almost 5 tons and topped with half a ton of whipped cream. Shortly after the irresistible aroma of chocolate mousse and cream puff conquered the square, the hunger strike had ended.

And in “Profiterole for the Kurds? (revisited)” on Aug. 18, 2011, I recalled what I thought was the realistic dynamics of any Turkish-Kurdish peace (or war):

-- Extended Kurdish broadcasting and Kurdish linguistic institutes as part of Turkish universities are just fine. [But] will they not be just another profiterole with a wonderful aroma for the Kurds?

-- Kurds do not categorically want peace, i.e. peace at all costs, but rather peace will come if/when they think the conditions attached to it are deemed “honorable” by Kurds who are sympathetic to the “Kurdish cause,” i.e. autonomy/independence.

-- A Kurdish homeland is why the PKK has fought its 25-year-long war, although [the PKK] retreated in rhetorical terms, to a large degree of autonomy. Sorry, but the PKK men have not killed and been killed because they are a bunch of bloodthirsty sadomasochists. Nor have they killed… to win some silly state or private broadcasting in their own language or a couple of Kurdish language institutes at Turkish universities.

-- This war has been about sentiments… although in later years tens of millions of dollars worth of drug smuggling money was involved too. Muslim Kurds did not shoot at Muslim Turks during the holy month of Ramadan to get a few “cultural goodies.”

We all should support the courage behind Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s peace plan that apparently takes off on a skillfully orchestrated public diplomacy campaign – and ignore the possible tactical deliberations he may be hoping will be accrued into the political power struggle surrounding the three more than critical elections in 2014 and 2015. One way to support peace is to advise caution and realism and not be tricked into the realm of overoptimistic deception.

Peace will not come on a gratis basis. Turks will have to give up “something.” Some kind of recognition for the Kurds in vague language that cleanses every paragraph of the Constitution of the word “Turkish?” Double profiterole with a cherry on top? Peace will come only if Turkish political engineering has crafted a degree of Kurdish autonomy acceptable for all insurgent Kurdish factions.

This was hidden in Mr. Erdoğan’s speech on Feb. 26 when he said that he still clings to his famous “one nation, one flag, one country” red lines. That could be a good start to calm down the Turks, who will consider any compromise as “selling out the country” and to invalidate the MHP’s claims that “any peace deal would amount to division/treason.” And it does not rule out an unknown degree of autonomy, does it?