BDP represents Kurdish Turks

BDP represents Kurdish Turks

In Diyarbakır, thousands peacefully participated in the funeral of three Kurdish activists killed in Paris. It was a political show of strength for the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). So much depends on the political capability of the BDP this time. Political problems need to be solved by political means. Kurdish Turks now have that opportunity in the BDP for the first time. Let me explain.

Turkey has changed radically in the last half-century. The Turkish economic transformation process began in the 1980s. The policy reforms were introduced right after the oil crisis led to economic difficulties in Turkey. Turkey decided to leave the old script aside in terms of economic policy reforms.

Economic transformation was later coupled with political transformation with the spread of industry to the periphery. Turkey was a sleepy agricultural country at the beginning of reforms. It has now become a dynamic, mid-tech industrial country. This has been an impressive transformation.

Turkey has not changed radically in the last half-century. The last armed Kurdish insurgency also began in the 1980s. There was no success in bringing radical change to the age-old script on this front. Turkey decided to deal with this problem by following the 19th century recipe. Denying reality became the official policy line. Of course, it did not work. Now we have only reached the point of accepting that there are Kurdish Turks living in Turkey. We already knew that particular fact before this last uprising.

Hey, they were speaking Kurdish after all! When it comes to the Kurdish issue, Turkey has not changed enough. Stopping the guns is not a policy proposal. I still do not see a political solution alternative. The record so far is not very impressive.

As the Syrian crisis is about to result in a stalemate in its second winter and Obama is at the start of his second term as the U.S. president, Turkey has started a domestic peace initiative. This seems to be an effort to prepare the ground for new vows right at the start of the second Obama presidency. This time I see two differences. Chairman Öcalan clearly occupies center stage of the initiative together with the BDP, which is represented by more than 30 MPs at the Grand National Assembly. This is a good omen.

Why a good omen? Because the BDP represent Kurds. The BDP represents something more than the PKK itself. When you ask them whether the PKK represents Kurdish Turks, 70 percent say no, mind you.
What about support for Öcalan among Kurds? Some 66 percent of those surveyed support the idea that the government has to negotiate with Öcalan directly for a solution. Two things stuck in my mind after that 2011 survey: Öcalan and the BDP as a political party inside Parliament. So far the current efforts have struck the right chord. Of course, the BDP needs to realize its representational role and act as a credible interlocutor to deliver a peaceful result.

So what is the catch? While 66 percent of Kurdish Turks supported the idea of government negotiating a solution with Öcalan, 90 percent of Turkish Turks were totally against the idea back then. While the first group represents about 15 percent of the respondents, the latter represents the rest. That is democracy and electoral cycles for you. Finding a solution requires a carefully crafted domestic public diplomacy effort towards the majority, if you ask me. I do not see it yet. That is the problem.

The inter-party parliamentary work on a new Constitution representing all segments of the society could be the best venue for such an effort.