War or peace with Kurds

War or peace with Kurds

The most important condition of peace is deliberation. This is what Turkey needs but has failed to achieve in terms of peace with Kurds. All parties to the Kurdish conflict – the Turkish state, the present government, the current opposition parties and their respective supporters, on one hand, and all the actors of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its leader Abdullah Öcalan on the other – can find hundreds of reasons to confront each other endlessly unless a serious plan for peace is produced. 

The most important actor of peace is the present government as it has asymmetrical power for deliberation vis-à-vis all the other actors. Political power can be used both for war and peace, both for confrontation and compromise, both for suppression and negotiation. The democratic polity is based on the policies of social peace, compromise and political negotiation rather than militaristic measures, social and political confrontation and suppression. 

Democratic politics are easy to subscribe to but difficult to implement and, besides the politics of democracy, need sophisticated political skills whereas the politics of confrontation and suppression need only sheer power, which is easy to implement. Nevertheless, diversions from democratic policies have their shortcomings and are not only matters of principle. It is more difficult to govern a society where tension prevails rather than social peace; likewise, it is more difficult to engage in permanent confrontation and employ force rather than rest on compromise. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for all governments who opt for undemocratic politics to realize the shortcomings of their ways; in the meantime, their societies pay the price for their failures. 

This is the short history of the Kurdish conflict in Turkey in general and the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in particular. The Turkish state and its various governments tried all methods to eliminate “the burden” of the Kurdish issue from the beginning of the Republic, but they failed and refused to recognize their failure and continually repeated the old mistakes. The AKP is the latest to repeat the old mistakes before claiming that all its attempts have been blocked by “various actors who were determined to hinder peace with Kurds.” The military hegemony, “the remnants of the deep state,” international plotters, the PKK (and then the hawks within the PKK), have all been held responsible for blocking the road to peace. In fact, first and foremost, it was the AKP who blocked its own way by refusing to recognize the importance of all the actors of “the problem.” 

It was a mistake that the AKP inherited from its processors. Besides, the AKP repeated another mistake of Turkish politics; the DIY approach for political actors, or “inventing favorite actors.” This is not a peculiarity of Turkish politics but a common trait of a combination of shallowness and authoritarianism. Erdoğan was a victim of this approach once when some “invented potential leaders of the center right” attempted to block him from power before the 2002 elections. Yet, he and his government have not hesitated to try to do the same with Kurds by promoting favorite Kurdish actors, like so-called “moderate” Kurdish NGOs and intellectuals, veteran Kurdish politicians like Kemal Burkay, Kurdish icon Leyla Zana and Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani. The serious deliberation of peace needs engagement with the real actors no matter whether we like them or not, since only real actors have the power to convince “the resentful Kurds” on peace. 

Finally, the key to peace is to overcome the resentment of millions of ordinary Kurds. The main obstacle standing in the way of peace is not the hawks of the BDP or the PKK, but the resentment of ordinary Kurds.