Turkey needs voices in favor of peace politics
Turkey is not officially at war, but rather says it is engaged in a “military operation” in the northern Syrian enclave of Afrin. But there must have been a political space for arguments in favor of peace or for a peaceful solution. Alas, we do not seem to have any space for such dissent in Turkey. This is the case primarily because of the political understanding of the ruling party, which views any argument against a military solution as tantamount to “treason.” But that is only one reason among many.
We never had a strong political tradition of democratic debate on foreign policies and peace campaigning. Especially if the issue is related to military solutions; the whole nation is expected to be united under one banner. That is why currently all political parties - with the exception of the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) - are supporting the military campaign of the government. It is not only out of fear of being labelled as “anti-national,” but also because all parties, including the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), represent different versions of nationalism and militarism. Besides, the last confrontation is related to the Kurdish problem, and again all political currents have similar views concerning the issue. It was not surprising when CHP politicians criticized the ruling party for starting and engaging in a “peace process” at the time, rather than its opposition to the end of that process.
The problem is not only the democracy deficit of the current government, but the opposite actually: We have had a deficit in democracy in Turkish politics all along, because we do not have alternative politics to nationalist and militarist ones. After all, it was the CHP that took pride in Turkey’s military intervention in Cyprus in the 1970s. Today, all political parties are competing with one another on nationalistic grounds. The nationalist and militarist tradition can be explained through Turkey’s historic resentments and fears that date back to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the War of Independence. But unless Turkey frees itself from its past, we will never have any chance to develop democratic and peace politics.
But we have to admit that post-Cold War global politics also enforce nationalistic and militaristic biases and historical skepticism on countries like ours. When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recalls U.S. interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere to justify Turkey’s military move, it is hard to argue against this. After all it was British Labour Party leader and Prime Minister Tony Blair who supported the U.S. in its occupation in Iraq back in 2003 despite millions who protested the affair and called for peace in London. Peace politics and peaceful solutions are in decline globally and the current situation justifies the idea of power politics.
Finally, the HDP lost considerable credibility in Turkey after failing to draw a clear line between democratic space and armed conflict. In northern Syria, the Kurdish military forces’ welcoming of U.S. backing cost Kurdish politics a loss of moral superiority. It may be argued that minorities and their politicians are always in need of the support of powerful states to survive. Nevertheless, throughout history, modern history has always been about the tragic dilemma for those who ally themselves with powerful states, to choose between moral superiority and power politics. It was not always a matter of morality or political correctness but also about the safety of their communities which are at risk. And if things go wrong, millions could pay the price.
I think that Turkey needs dissenting voices for peaceful solutions and politics of negotiation and diplomacy, and I am one of them, regardless.