New Turkey, the PKK and jet lag
Recently, Turkey has made considerable efforts to overcome its historical jet lag. On one side Turkey lives in “Western time,” while on the other it lives in “Eastern time.” While some live in the post-millennium world, others live in the Cold War era; while some live in the 21st century, others are stuck at the end of 20th century, or even at the late 19th century. Political actors of different social, political and economic backgrounds often find themselves grouped along a similar political line. The main reason for this is these actors, in their social and political approaches, attempt to reconcile incommensurable socio-political temporalities.
The aerial bombing of the Iraqi border region, resulting in 35 deaths, is one of the most tragic moments of this period. The questionable killing of civilians had a direct impact on the reactions of political actors. As expected, the government declared the incident a disastrous mistake and initiated an investigation. The main opposition party, leaving behind the equivocating discourses it adopted just a few weeks ago after Prime Minister Erdoğan’s apology for the Dersim massacre, demanded a thorough investigation into the incident.
For the first time in the recent history of Turkish Republic, we have witnessed the state breaking away from old habits in the face of harm done to its own citizens. In contrast to the indifferent attitude of the past, the Turkish Armed Forces accepted blame and announced they had initiated an investigation into the incident. Although this new attitude does not meet adequate levels of democratization, it demonstrates a concept of accountability is gradually taking root in the country.
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and PKK’s reactions condoning violence were among the most provocative after the bombing tragedy. It demonstrated, once again, the difficulty in overcoming the historical jet lag syndrome completely. It is clear the incident is a tragic mistake on the part of the state.
At the end of the investigation, it may even prove to be a conspiracy. Nevertheless, it is also clear the state’s reaction to the incident differs from its attitudes in the 1990s in the face of such events. The BDP/PKK’s adoption of a political discourse based on incorrect analogies and short-sighted political interpretations is an indication of their insistence of the habits and discourses of the ’90s.
In Turkey today, legal political channels are wide open. As long as violence and illegal actions are not rendered viable, Turkey promotes a productive democratic environment incomparable to its old patterns. In fact, no one can claim Turkey has completed its process of democratization. As numerous scientific researches and trials evince, the most problematic institutional structure in Turkey, the judiciary, still suffers from growing democratization pains. BDP/PKK may be the only other institution that shares the judiciary’s political path. The Kurdish political movement and PKK maintain discourses and activities similar to the ones they exhibited in old Turkey.
Political science fails to offer an adequate explanation for the PKK’s isolation from current developments in Turkey, the Middle East and the world. In the context of new political structures in Turkey and the Middle East, those who condone violence fail to see it is this attitude that leads to bloodshed. They fail to see “the demand for accountability” is the unquestionable right of citizens within the boundaries of law. For the PKK/BDP to detach itself from the previous century and reach the social, political and economic world of 2012, it must first acknowledge the historical jet lag syndrome from which it suffers.