The Kurds and the conservatives

The Kurds and the conservatives

When will Turkish democrats eventually face up to reality, I wonder? Some claim that they were shocked by the statements of Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, as if they do not live in this country and have just arrived from the moon.

In fact, the minister proved to be capable of surprising even the most realistic observers of Turkish politics, when he stated that there was nothing to apologize for in the Uludere incident. He also added that “those who were killed would have been detained for smuggling; their death overshadowed their crime.”

Soon after, the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik denounced Şahin’s statements as “inhuman.” Çelik gave many pro-government and democratic writers the chance to claim that Şahin’s statements do not reflect the view of the government and the AKP in general. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quick to fall short of expectations.

He first called on everyone not to speak out on the topic anymore, “because he is the president of the AKP” (if not the president of Turkey, yet). He then backed up the remarks of his minister by repeating that there will be no apology, that those who were killed were indeed smugglers, and that “no one can legitimize smuggling.”

I have always thought that Erdoğan and the AKP were not hypocritical concerning finding a solution to the Kurdish question. Erdoğan genuinely wanted to solve the Kurdish issue: The problem was not about his sincerity but his about understanding of how to solve the problem. He simply wanted Kurds to give up their political demands and accommodate the policies of the government. Otherwise, they would prove to be “terrorists,” “friends of terrorists” and above all, “enemies of the country.” This is how and why we have come to this point, and it is no surprise.

On one hand, Erdoğan is a typical authoritarian leader who does not like to be challenged. On the other, this political mindset is not limited to the prime minister: His party firmly represents the right-wing political tradition in Turkey, which is authoritarian and highly nationalistic. The democrats of Turkey have long focused on the authoritarian characteristics of republicanism, but have neglected the fact that similar traits exist in the conservative political tradition. The conservatives of Turkey have never been less nationalistic concerning Kurdish rights: On the contrary, right-wing militants used to accuse leftists of being pro-Kurdish enemies of Turkey’s unity, in the 1960s and 70s.

If we go further back, it is true that there were some disagreements among the founding fathers of the Turkish Republic concerning the Kurdish issue. And those founders with conservative leanings were even more anti-Kurdish. General Fevzi Çakmak, a hero of the conservatives, was not only the commander of the Dersim massacre, but was also famously opposed to the promotion of education in the southeast, saying “We cannot even cope with ignorant Kurds, how we will cope when they are educated?”

Another conservative hero, General Karabekir, opposed recruiting Kurds for the army, to prevent them from learning to use modern weapons.

In short, bringing the Kurdish issue to this point has been a joint effort of all Turkish political parties, and now it seems that an absolute power of conservatives will take their turn at demonstrating absolute power to the Kurds. God forbid, and save us from the consequences.