Kurds and the flames of fire

Kurds and the flames of fire

I learned the price of getting involved in the political debate on the Kurdish issue after I started to focus on Kurdish politics in around 2009. Since then, I have faced some judicial investigations (which were based on such accusations like supporting terror organizations), phone tappings and some intimidation. 

Nevertheless, thanks to the peace process which was initiated by the government in 2013, such things came to an end. In fact, I knew that all these were nothing in comparison with the price many Kurds and their friends have paid for years.

Nowadays, it is much worse since it has become inconceivable to even get involved in such debates on the Kurdish issue without being directly labelled as a “terrorist without weapon, but a pen,” in the words of our president. Looking back, I had been very cautious and rather critical about the trajectory of the peace process all along, but I was quite hopeful that the government policy had changed concerning the Kurdish issue, especially as the government had parted ways from the Gülen group’s hawkish policy.

From the beginning of the so-called peace process, I had always been concerned by the possibility of a backlash, but never thought that it would be as fierce as we have witnessed recently. Besides, I believed in the possibility of our contribution to peace politics as pro-peace democrats, but now I am not sure if it makes any sense for the parties to the conflict. First of all, the armed wing of the Kurdish political movement, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has nearly destroyed the democratic role and credibility of the Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), by launching a military response to Turkish military operations. Then, the de facto “autonomy building process” as they call it, only worked to legitimize the government’s harsh response since it was accompanied by the protection of armed youth squads. On top of everything, a PKK splinter group staged two bomb attacks which killed civilians along with some security members in Ankara.

Now, it is also a moral problem to focus only on the shortcomings of the government’s policies. As military operations intensify, casualties on both side are increasing for members of the security forces and the Kurdish rebels, and it becomes a matter of consciousness to turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of the PKK’s “revolutionary strategy.” Nevertheless, if you focus more on criticizing the PKK, this attitude can be used to legitimize the harsh military and security operations.

Another important issue is the public mood, since the Turkish army is still a conscript army, the public mood turns against even minor criticisms of military and security operations. As the government enforces the nationalistic discourse of martyrdom to compensate for its lack of accountability and responsibility for the losses, angry nationalism takes hold. Finally, since government politicians do not refrain from manipulating public anger toward Turkey’s democrats, liberals and leftists by portraying them as PKK helpers, it may lead to mob attacks and confrontations.

As the Kurds expect that they will weaken the government by creating more turmoil, the risk is fostering an atmosphere for mob anger and attacks against Turkey’s democrats, liberals and leftists. We have already lost not only the scope for democratic debate and politics, but also moral superiority to support Kurds’ rights and freedoms. Still, it seems that it is not only the government party but Kurdish politicians as well who do not see or bother worrying about the risk of a civil war.   

In fact, there are also problems with the expectations of many dissidents, for if they expect the ungovernability crisis, the Kurdish problem or economic difficulties to weaken the governing party and end its rule, they are utterly mistaken. We should not forget that authoritarian rulers often direct the flames of fire at their enemies when they face difficulty. The fire is already set in Turkey, and it will burn dissent before ever burning the government.