“Altneuland” (Old-New Land) is the title of the novel by Theodor Herzl published in 1902, a “political utopia” written as fiction. Herzl referred to Palestine as the old homeland of the Jews, which could again become a new homeland to end “the Jewish problem,” in modern times. Herzl’s utopia reminds me the political utopia of democrats in Turkey who dreamed of building a “New Turkey” in the old land. The rise of the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) as a political power which managed to fight against the old status quo seemed a great chance to build a new, democratic Turkey. It was a political utopia written as non-fiction, but only turned out to be the “political dystopia” that came true as the reality that we live today.
I do not consider political utopias as merely naivety or daydreaming. On the contrary, I think if humanity did not have utopias for a better future, there would be no politics but only power struggles. As Herlz states: “If you will, there is no fairy tale.” Nevertheless, if we have utopias for a better future we have to have the determination to realize our hopes and dreams; otherwise, utopias turn to dystopias, as Herlz’s utopia turned out to be today’s Israel.
Nowadays, the “new strategy” of the government to solve “the Kurdish problem” is being debated and many political observers agree that it is in fact an old-new strategy. The new plan repeats the mistakes of the past, first by closing the door on political negotiations with Öcalan and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The “new” strategy recognizes the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) as interlocutors, but only if the BDP distances itself from Öcalan and the PKK. Nonetheless, the crucial idea behind the new strategy is the old-new idea of separating the Kurds, the BDP, Öcalan and the PKK and repeating the old discourse of “rescuing” the Kurds and even the BDP from the pressures of Öcalan and the PKK. The Turkish government - and state policy in general - fails to recognize the fact that a majority of the BDP’s electorate are keen supporters of the PKK and idealize Öcalan as a “national hero.” The BDP is already being criticized by the majority of this constituency as being “soft” or “a part of the system,” so if the party considers distancing itself more from the PKK and Öcalan it will further lose its legitimacy in their eyes. It is more logical to ask the BDP to be some sort of moderator, rather than trying to turn it into a puppet of governmental policies. Besides, the present government of the “New Turkey” is as reluctant as the old Turkey’s governments to recognize the fact that it is not possible to make peace with the civil population in the region if military operations continue.
In short, “the new strategy” is simply a new version of old state politics concerning the Kurdish problem, and in fact it is more risky to try to repeat old games, after all those years during which Kurds have become much more politicized and mobilized. Worse is the fact that no one can truly solve Kurdish problem unless Turkey genuinely transforms itself into a democratic new Turkey. If we fail to realize the political utopia of turning our old land into a new land, we will live the dystopia of an old-new land; that is, we will live in the old land with all its old troubles, under the banner of “new.”