The lost golden opportunity
Looking back from the Turkey of February 2016 to the pre-June 2015 Turkey, it is almost impossible not to feel the pain of the great golden opportunity lost for a political resolution to the greatest ever challenge faced by republican Turkey, the Kurdish issue. Many people who voted in the June 2015 elections in support of the “Turkey party” image of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) presented at the time are now disillusioned and disappointed today, seeing that nothing more than a “political extension of a Kurdish terrorist group” is left from the very same party.
Indeed, in voting for the HDP in June 2015, many liberal, social democratic and socialist people were very much aware of the political history behind the HDP and the very likelihood that the “Turkey party” image forged was just a skilled illusionary presentation. Yet, they voted for the HDP believing it was in the best interest of Turkey to leave behind the Kurdish problem through a process of political resolution rather than the military-centered approaches that failed to provide an end to the problem for the almost half the past century.
Many of the problems of the Kurdish people of Turkey were not issues particularly to them but rather faced by all the people of the land as they were all matters related to either the absence of democracy or acute democratic shortcomings. From problems in representation to freedom of expression, media freedom, the right to organize or demonstrate and laws pertaining to elections or political parties, Turkey has been a deficient democracy not only for the Kurds but for the entire population of the country. Of course, the Kurdish people of this land have problems particular to themselves as well, but if the general democratization woes of Turkey could be resolved, most of the other problems might be knocked down with no great effort. Naturally like “language” or some other demands that contradict with the understanding of a “unitary state,” there might be some “red lines” for “ethnic Turkish” or “ethnic Kurdish” segments, or the “deep state,” that might take a little bit longer to gradually disappear or wane.
Regardless, the HDP as a “Turkey party” project was a vitally important instrument. Unfortunately, this instrument was brutally shattered both by the government, the separatist gang and the shallow politicians leading it. First of all, the government was not sincere at all. What the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) presented as a “Kurdish opening” or “brotherhood project” was nothing further than a tool consolidating its power base so that it could carry itself and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to a position to fulfill their political aspirations. The not-so-bright outcome of the June elections for the AKP effectively killed the process and placed both the HDP and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) back in the crosshairs of the military machine of the country.
The PKK, on the other hand, was not sincere at all, as has become apparent more clearly in November 2015 when military operations in southeastern towns and cities demonstrated to all how it exploited the “silent arms period” to transform many settlements into weapons depots to be used in a massive uprising against the state. Would the HDP have been able to resist the PKK had the AKP and its policies of arrogance not outgunned it in the first place? There can be no answer to that, but had there been politicians of high caliber leading the HDP, all the handicaps might have been turned into advantage and the AKP might have been tamed into democratic governance.
Of course sanctions on Iran and related “side businesses” derailing the aspirations of some people did not allow for an atmosphere of compromise and reconciliation to be consolidated. The normalization of any degree on such an important “front” might have made it easier to advance Turkish democracy. What would have been the first impact of increased transparency in Turkish governance?
As was demonstrated skillfully by Erdoğan and his AKP over the past three years, politics is not the art of just surviving but coming out stronger than before in all challenges? Some do it with great opportunism in a Machiavellian way, some prefer to walk a nobler democratic way and some just fall to their greed, ideology and emotionalism.
For God’s sake, was it sane for a HDP deputy to attend commemorative ceremonies glorifying a terrorist who blew himself and 28 other people up in the heart of Ankara just five days ago? Was not such an action suicidal for a politician as well as for the party of that politician? Did that failed politician represent the Kurdish people when he participated in that unfortunate commemoration? Do the Kurdish people of this land deserve that?
A golden opportunity has been lost. Turkey needed the HDP as much as the Kurds needed it. Unfortunately, it became a self-destructive project as disastrous as the suicide bombers.