What will Uludere tragedy change in Turkey?
No government statement or military justification can explain the killing of 35 people whose only fault was to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. More than half of the victims were teenagers who were trying to earn their livings by smuggling cigarettes from Iraq to Turkey. Described as “the operational mistake,” the incident however launched a deep and an intensified debate over the counter-terrorism methods and a political quarrel between the ruling and oppositional parties.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and later his deputy Beşir Atalay said the government will continue to be loyal to the rule of law in its anti-terror fight. Atalay also said the government was committed to improve democratic standards in the country and the new constitution will be the main tool in this end.
Erdoğan and Atalay’s statements are in line with last week’s National Security Council (MGK) decisions on giving more importance to the democratic norms in the security-freedoms equation, something long forgotten by the government.
In this sense, if it may be called so, the only positive result of the Uludere tragedy would be speeding up the works of the governments in this course.
However, the other side of the coin tells another story. Yesterday’s quarrel at the Parliament depicts a divided political picture between four major parties making more difficult a compromise over the new constitution. Leaders of four major parties who were accusing the others for exploiting the Uludere tragedy were in fact doing the same thing with sharp, indecent language.
In a not very surprising manner, Erdoğan and ruling party members slammed the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) for trying to spoil the funerals of the victims and turning a humanitarian tragedy into an ethnic base political fray.
In return, the BDP spokespersons slammed the government’s overall policies which failed to bring about a sound solution to the Kurdish question. BDP’s leader Selahattin Demirtaş called the current picture an indication of “emotional division” between Turks and Kurds.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu slammed the government for not taking responsibility over the incident and for trying to prevent him from visiting the region. The social democrats also used the Van earthquake and Uludere tragedy to increase the party’s visibility in the region.
For obvious reasons, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) seemed to buy the army’s statements over the incident and urged the government not to cease the counter-terror activities against the PKK.
This divided picture is unlikely to produce common sense and compromise, something the country needs very much to solve its rooted questions. As a matter of course, the great portion of the responsibility in changing this picture for the good lies on the shoulders of the government which received every other vote of the Turkish people only six months ago.