An arithmetical solution to the Kurdish question?
While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was making one of his enthusiastic addresses to a cheerful crowd in the yard of an Imam-Hatip School in Denizli, the chief of the United States Army, Martin Dempsey, was holding talks with his Turkish counterparts. And while Gen. Necdet Özel, chief of General Staff, was asking Dempsey to intensify ongoing bilateral operational intelligence-sharing cooperation and complaining about the delayed delivery of high-tech military equipment to be used in combating the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Erdoğan was putting the audience’s mind at ease by informing them that the glorious Turkish army had killed some 500 terrorists in just one month. Of these, 123 were rendered ineffective in Hakkari alone, thanks to the massive military operations there, he added.
Opening a debate over the accuracy of the information Erdoğan provided is neither the intention nor the task of this column. However, it is its duty to question and to analyze the intentions of the prime minister by making such an assertive statement.
According to the U.S. State Department’s 2012 Terrorism Report, the PKK has approximately 4,000 to 5,000 militants, 3,000 to 3,500 of whom are located in northern Iraq. On the word of Erdoğan, we could come to the conclusion that nearly 10 percent of the PKK’s members have been neutralized globally, or nearly one third of the PKK elements within Turkish territory.
His decision to announce this “good news” to the Turkish public came only one day after the PKK killed eight Turkish soldiers in the latest in its chain of deadly attacks against troops and civilians. Thus, it’s nothing but a message that “we killed more than they did.”
It may also be his goal to ease the minds of the public, who are living through difficult times, coping with the shock of almost-daily terrorist activities. But the subtext of Erdoğan’s statement says more than this. To me it reflects a policy that believes the PKK problem will be eliminated by killing all of its members. This reminds me of the Sri Lankan model exercised on the Tamil guerillas. I hope I am wrong.
One sign among others that the head of the government is drifting away from democracy was his advice to Ümit Boyner, head of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) to “mind her own business,” when she questioned the government’s silence over the Uludere tragedy and the military depot blast in Afyonkarahisar. And yesterday he told Kurds, who continue to voice their demand for the right to education in their mother tongue, “I beg your pardon! Not that much,” obviously calling on them to be content with elective courses in Kurdish. Democratic norms do not regard an ethnic or any other group’s demand as a favor for the government to bestow.
To sum up, the Kurdish problem will not be solved by the deaths of more troops or civilians or by killing more terrorists, as the death toll of nearly 40,000 over the last 30 years has proven to us. Contrary to what the government believes, there will be no arithmetical solution to the problem.