Kurdish drama, Turkish tragedy

Kurdish drama, Turkish tragedy

The new Turkish party-state has proven to be no different to the “ancien regime” regarding its Kurdish policy, despite all the fanfare in the name of democratization, dialogue, negotiations and the so-called peace process. Now, the situation has returned to a fully-fledged “war on terror,” military operations, long curfews, and suspension of the order of law in the name of the law of order. The infamous Sri Lanka model has replaced the aspired IRA model.

From the beginning, the peace process was essentially an attempt to make peace with Kurds in the name of religious - and indeed sectarian (Sunni) - brotherhood. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) started negotiations with the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to achieve a call for the PKK’s disarmament. Ultimately, the AKP expected to make a deal with Kurds in return for their support for the presidential system. This plan was doomed to fail and indeed it did; still, the regression back to war could have been avoided.

As for the Kurds, it seems there was no clear policy other than oscillation between two extremes: A strategy of overconfident optimism and pragmatism and a strategy of over-skepticism and war. At the beginning of the peace process, the Kurdish political movement and especially their leader chose to turn a blind eye to democratic regression in Turkey, paradoxically in the name of securing their deal for peace. Some even flirted with the idea of supporting the presidential system, despite the fact that the idea created a rift within the Kurdish political movement. 

The Kurdish democratic wing, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), later decided to transform itself into an opposition party for all, declaring its opposition to the presidential system and to any deal with the AKP. It was supported by some Turkish left-liberals and democrats as a positive idea, and its sympathetic young leader Selahattin Demirtaş was portrayed as an opposition leader. Foreign observers also liked what they saw.

However, the worst outcome of this delusion turned out to be the deterioration of the Kurdish democratic political experiment - and its leader’s loss of credibility – after the PKK decided to return to military confrontation last July.

The Kurdish movement’s regional success in securing free enclaves in northern Syria, as well as the legitimacy given by the Western powers regarding the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), could have been political assets for Kurdish politics in Turkey. But in fact the “Rojava revolution” turned out to be a delusion fed by overconfidence. As for Turkey, the Kurds’ successes provoked extreme skepticism, giving new impetus to Turkey’s further intervention into the Syrian war in order to counter Kurdish moves, using the so-called “Turkmen forces.”

The result is that the Kurdish predicament has turned into a messy drama, while the Turkish predicament has turned into a tragedy. It is a tragedy for Turkey, as the country will only be able to survive its political and social crises by reforming itself through democratization and striking peace with Kurds. The return of dark politics is not only a matter of liberties and peace; it is now a matter of survival for our troubled country in terms of domestic, regional and international politics, which are all closely intertwined.