Cleaning up mines on road to peace

Cleaning up mines on road to peace

If we wait for the guns to fall silent to start talking in this country, we may never talk. On the contrary, it is necessary to talk louder than ever for guns to fall silent and for bloodshed to stop. If there is anybody out there who can, or would like to, speak out in a milieu where the guns are taking lives on all sides, there is likewise no need to wait for the guns to fall silent to listen to them.

This was the spirit in which I accepted an invitation from Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality and spent the last two days in this city where we were hosted together with nine of my colleagues.

Metropolitan Mayor Osman Baydemir took us around Diyarbakır, devoting almost his entire Saturday. He spoke of the city’s progress, its services and the problems they run into with the government in the area of municipal work. Yesterday, we also came together with the co–leaders of the Peace and Democracy Party, or the BDP, Gülten Kışanak and Selahattin Demirtaş, at a breakfast hosted by Baydemir in the Gazi Mansion.

The fact that the question most asked among people is, “Where are we going in this country?” - where conflict emanating from the Kurdish problem is spreading fast – shows the appearance of a “fear of the future.”

For that reason, I will first reflect on those parts about the future from a nearly 2.5-hour conversation with Kışanak, Demirtaş and Baydemir.

Let’s begin with the nearest future, or what is going to happen Tuesday?

BDP deputies will gather in Diyarbakır and decide whether they will return to Parliament beginning Oct. 1.

The pulse of the Kurdish politicians we met in Diyarbakır indicates that the prevailing tendency in their group is toward going back to Parliament and taking the oath. Let’s hope this forecast turns into reality.

Otherwise, or if BDP deputies do not take their places on the Parliament’s ranks, the impression that will result in both the country’s west and across the world at large is that the Kurdish movement has abandoned the legal parliamentarian area of politics. The significance of leaving parliamentary politics behind, within the framework of this impression, is to open a vacuum to be filled by the armed movement instead. To engage in peace also requires preventing the emergence of such an impression.

On the other hand, it seems that BDP deputies are up against pressure from their electoral base not to return to Parliament.

The deep indignation caused in this region by the decision of the Supreme Election Board, or YSK, to strip the arrested Hatip Dicle of his deputyship is a major factor that led to the mounting pressure.

“There would be no use in returning to Parliament, but it may harm us to remain outside,” one BDP politician told us.

As far as we could see, the BDP’s voter base is also questioning whether there is any sense in their nominees sitting in Parliament if this does not serve in finding a solution to the Kurdish problem.

Why would it be harmful to stay in Parliament?

For instance, would it be more effective across the country and the world if Demirtaş contented himself with issuing his statements and demands, which I will be quoting below, before journalists in the Gazi Mansion, or if he gave voice to them from the Parliament’s tribune?

We would think it is the latter.

Thus spoke Demirtaş:

“We could not make peace. Let everyone accept this. There is no point in [playing a blame game] after this. It is necessary to do some cleanup work on the road to peace. There is no walking on this road if it is mined. The cleanup on this road ought also be done by the government. What are these mines? The freedom of expression, the obstacles that lie before the freedom of the press, political arrests, obstacles in the Law of Political Parties and the 10 percent election threshold. Had the threshold been lowered, conflict would not have begun after the elections. The government can persuade neither the PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] nor us without taking care of these. The government ought to adopt an attitude that inspires confidence in all. It is the government whose business it is to solve this no matter what. We accept the government as our counterpart. There is no running away from the table. You will be back to sit again.”

Kışanak, for example, gave voice to their demands for “negotiations” upon the Parliament’s platform.

She said: “Negotiations must absolutely continue,” in reference to the negotiations made with Öcalan. She is waiting for the state to show its stance regarding the three protocols over the issues of being a counterpart, peace and the constitution presented earlier by Öcalan. She is also requesting that the government explicitly indicate that these processes are being executed through the government’s own political will.

In the end, emptying out the parliamentarian field also amounts to politics, but it is not good politics.

*Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this article was published on Monday. It was translated into English by Daily News staff