It’s high time to resolve Turkey’s Kurdish question

It’s high time to resolve Turkey’s Kurdish question

There is no doubt that Turkey has entered a new era since the July 15 failed coup attempt, one which will witness drastic changes in its key security institutions and state structure, as well as its threat assessment. 

The government is working on a new decree law that will change the status of the Gendarmerie Forces Command and Coast Guard Command, fully subordinating both institutions to the Interior Ministry. The gendarmerie forces are expected to serve as the “rural police” under the Police Department, while civilian control of the land, naval and air forces will be increased. The government is planning to appoint an undersecretary to each force so that it will much better oversee the military’s actions.   

Meanwhile, the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) will convene on July 28 for a one-day meeting where necessary appointments will be decided. Once one of the most important mechanisms in shaping security policies and the structure of the military echelon, the YAŞ has seemingly lost its weight in the decision-making process, especially since the coup attempt. 

At the same time, there are important developments in Turkish politics. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on July 25 invited the leaders of two opposition parties for a meeting at his palace to thank them for their stance against the coup plotters. The rally held by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Istanbul over the weekend took place in a climate of unity, with the participation of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

Moreover, the leaders of three parties have also agreed to undertake a partial change in the constitution to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has also expressed support for the deal between the other parties, vowing to contribute to the process even though it was not invited to Erdoğan’s meeting. 

There seems to be a positive tendency among all political parties for more dialogue and less political tension in the post-coup attempt process. The continuation of this trend has a particular importance for maintaining social peace and order across the country. However, Kurds and their political representation in parliament should not be excluded from this climate. 

On the contrary, a new initiative aimed at resolving the Kurdish peace process should be started. In an interview with daily Hürriyet, HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş underlined that they were ready to work with the government to this end, while drawing attention to the fact that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had opted to suspend its activities in the southeast. 

It should also be noted that prominent members of the government have been comparing the PKK to the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” (FETÖ), with the government describing the latter as more dangerous than the former. It will take time to see whether this will lead to a major change in Turkey’s threat assessment. 

Energy Minister Berat Albayrak’s statement that the Uludere incident, which led to the killing of 34 Kurdish civilians in southeast Turkey in December 2011, will be reinvestigated is also very significant. 

At this point, one can suggest that this may be the right time to consider beginning a fresh process for the resolution of the Kurdish question. 

First, the coup attempt has shown that regardless of their ethnic, ideological, political and sectarian differences, a good majority of the Turkish people stood in unity to protect democracy. Along with the HDP, which condemned the coup attempt in its early hours, Kurds in various parts of southeastern Anatolia also showed resistance against marching tanks. This unity and solidarity of the people should be well read by all politicians and rewarded through a concrete social project. 

Second, it is clear that months-long urban warfare has not worked to the advantage of the PKK. It has started to lose its political base in many southeastern provinces. Therefore, instead of trying to take advantage of the current situation, it would be wiser for the PKK to halt all of its activities in the region and elsewhere.

Third, it is obvious that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) took a huge blow from the Gülenist putsch. In many places, troops have been ordered to remain in their barracks and operations have been suspended. The government will likely be more hesitant to ask the army to move against the PKK in the very period we are passing through. 

Fourth, ending the influence of Gülenists in both politics and the state would create a better climate for negotiations. It’s no secret that the Gülen movement has long been against governmental efforts for the resolution of the Kurdish question. 

Fifth, the HDP should also realize that Turkish public opinion will no longer approve any political line that does not distance itself from terror and terrorists.      

Last but not least, developments in the Middle East and the continued war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in both failed states, Iraq and Syria, oblige Turkey to seek a long-term peace project in its territories. 

Perhaps a step in this direction would help all Turks and the whole country recover from the trauma it has been suffering since July 15.