Kurdish ‘nationhood’

Kurdish ‘nationhood’

The main problem with Turkish politics concerning Kurds is that “Turks” cannot accept any prospect of Kurds ruling themselves. Turks in general and the present government in particular resist the idea of Kurdish “nationhood” and that is it. The Kurds may be latecomers but the Kurdish problem is a “national problem,” and first of all, this reality has to be acknowledged. Otherwise, Turkey’s domestic and regional politics concerning the Kurds will not lead anywhere positive.

Recently it has been the Kurds of Syria and their Democratic Union Party (PYD) that became the focus of controversy. In the very beginning, a year ago, Turkey expressed a very harsh reaction when the PYD declared some sort of self-rule in Kurdish regions. As Turkey lowered its tone against the PYD of northern Syrian Kurds, the basic idea that Kurds should not form any political identity has not changed.

 Interestingly enough, Turkey did not express concern when the border points were captured by radical Islamist groups, but got alarmed by the alteration of position in favor of the PYD. Reacting to the ongoing clashes between radical Islamist groups and the PYD along with the Syrian border, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu came up with some demands on Syrian Kurds. “First, they should not cooperate with the regime. Second they should not form a de facto establishment on sectarian or ethnic grounds,” he said. In fact, so far Kurds managed to keep from collaborating with the regime as their own policy, so it seems that they do not need preaching. Then, Kurds are struggling for their rights and freedoms as a political identity that defines itself more as a nation than ethnicity. Finally, they do not seem to seek Turkey’s assistance to determining their policies, but they just ask for friendly relations. Nevertheless, Turkey never gives up declaring what Kurds should do.

 Now Kurds are calling for a conference in Arbil to underline the “national cause” and “national unity.” It is going to be the last one of four conferences to be held as an aspect of “the peace process” and it was Abdullah Öcalan who proposed it. The call was made in the name of three Kurdish leaders – Jalal Talabani, Masoud Barzani and Öcalan. The PYD and PKK will be represented at the conference as Kurdish parties. In short, it is going to be a full-fledged “national conference” and Turkey does not seem to get it right. In fact, this conference is going to be the highest point in “the peace process” since Öcalan managed to elevate the process at a national level. Besides, the issue of the Kurds of Syria will be acknowledged as a part of the “national problem.” Turkey should acknowledge these facts too, the sooner the better, rather than deluding itself with its futile politics of manipulation of Kurdish actors.

Alas, let alone recognizing the facts, the peace process is still being handled as a time game to be played until elections. The government still seems to consider solving the Kurdish issue as a matter of equal citizenship, of few cultural rights and by acts of courtesy. That is why the prime minister and the government still insist on expressing a very patronizing attitude toward Kurds and present the peace process as an act of benevolence on behalf of Turks and their government. Unless the government and indeed all we Turks refuse to acknowledge the fact that Kurdish issue is a national issue we will not be able to move on.

To tell the truth, I am not for Kurdish separatism and Kurds do not seem to be so either. It is perfectly understandable for Turks to wish to live within the same borders with Kurds, yet it is something else to oppose their nationhood.