The peace process and the enmity of politics

The peace process and the enmity of politics

One of the persisting responses to Turkey’s Kurdish issue and its trial with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was a hatred of politics, albeit in different doses. Episodes of intense anti-political sentiment took place between the years of 2008 and 2013. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan formalized the debate on the Kurdish issue on Nov. 10, 2009, when he opened it for discussion in Parliament for the first time in years. What followed, dubbed the 2009 initiative, revealed an interesting political landscape. It was clear that all political actors involved, particularly the PKK, were vexed by the politicization of the issue. One of the most striking examples of this was the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) emphatic declaration that they would “take to the mountains” if the PKK were brought down from the heights.

Turkey went through some historically important structural changes between the peace initiative of 2009 and the peace initiative of 2013. The military-judiciary tutelage regime was weakened to a great extent. The government’s interest in solving the Kurdish issue resulted in major transformations for the country almost as radical as a revolution. The 2013 resolution process revealed an even more interesting picture. The MHP’s emphasis on the dangers of the PKK’s politicization and its threat of taking to the mountains should that happen, found a parallel in the PKK’s emphasis on the necessity of their politicization while maintaining a presence in the mountains.

The 2013 peace initiative is at the juncture of these two empathic declarations of intentions to take to the mountains and to never come down from them. The axis on which both worlds agreed was nothing but an enmity of politics and the political. The “mountain world” of the 20th century is, to a great extent, afraid of politics and not interested in democratization. Clearly, both sides understand themselves to have worldviews that are based on coherent and accurate beliefs. The problem, however, is that these beliefs do not correspond to a meaningful and constructive way of doing politics.
The side that declared readily that it has no intention of “coming down from the mountain” was basing its adventure, on which it embarked as an armed leftist organization, on an imagined ideal of independence that could not really overcome the post-Sykes-Picot trauma. They utilize the leftist-liberal instruments in order to overcome their ethnic politics. Nevertheless, these instruments appeal neither to Kurds nor Turks, and definitely not to the masses.

The final objective of the 2013 resolution process is the disarmament of the PKK. The only way this aim can be realized through political deliberation is for the PKK to internalize its own disarmament. Unless the PKK perceives disarmament, not as leverage, but as the key to its own bargaining chip, it will not be able to achieve any founding political vision. The reason for the PKK wing’s traumatic and roller-coaster experience of this peace process is that it cannot even imagine politics without its mountains.

As long as these circumstances persist, the enmity of politics will continue.