Turkey and the second front
From a pure humanitarian standpoint, it is impossible to challenge the demands of Turkey’s Kurdish people to be visible in the Turkish state with their own identity. It is not possible either to tell people subscribing to the Alevi religious school that they should accept to be treated as if they were Sunni and give up demands for the recognition of their cemevi houses as places of worship. The situation of the ethnic Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians and other non-Muslim minorities also demonstrate the need for a radical overhaul of not only Turkey’s treatment of its ethnic, cultural and religious minorities but also the pressing urgency to bring an end to official discriminatory practices.
The Turkish state of course has all the right to defend itself against secessionist attempts. It is the fundamental duty of a state to protect its citizens from all sorts of threats and attacks. Defensive measures taken within the limits of law and in due respect to norms of democracy cannot be questioned by anyone.
Yet, Turkey is neither one ethnicity with many colors, nor one religious culture with variations. Such obsessions that constitute the backbone of the official understanding in this country even today have been at the very roots of most problems of the minorities of this land. This country can flourish only on the recognition of the incredible picture the many ethnic, cultural, religious and other differences of its entire people offer all together.
While no one can question Turkey’s right to protect itself and its people from attacks by secessionist terrorists or religious zealots, the domestic peace of Turkey as well as its capability to serve regional peace requires it to concede some bitter facts that indeed sharply contradict with what it might like to see.
First of all, the Ottoman Empire was a great state. It treated its minorities well. Its system of governance might be considered by some as far more advanced than governance systems of many countries of the day.
But it is dead and no one in this geography, headed by the vast majority of people of this country, would like to see it come back in any form. Extravagant ceremonies to mark the anniversary of Istanbul’s conquest might help the tall, bold, bald, ever angry man yelling at everyone all the time feel momentarily happy and grotesque. That’s it. Millions of Turkish Liras spent for an empty show, nothing else.
Secondly, because of its past, Turkey can be the “elder brother” of its region that contributes to the resolutions of problems when and if it is asked by its “junior brothers.” Even among brothers no one could accept someone constantly yelling at them and ordering what to do in order to solve their problems. If they wish, Turkey can mediate between “angry junior brothers” and help them resolve their disputes. If Turkey aligns with one of the sides in any problem it becomes a part of the problem as well and from that moment on, no longer has any leverage on any country, or any capacity to mediate. Similarly, Turkey might be angry with a particular government for not succumbing to its dictate after six or more hours of lecturing by a visiting top Turkish executive. Could such a development give Turkey the right to try to shape a new government in that country? Can it arm or help arm rebels? It might oppose a dictator and would like it to be pulled down by the people of that land. Can it undertake an active role in such a project because it believed there was a ruthless dictator in that country?
Thirdly, whether Turkey’s rulers would like to see it or not, there are peoples two predate Turks in this geography. Of course Kurds, for example, are part of the big family we have forged on this land, but should we not recognize that they constitute a segment of the autochthonic people of this geography? Should they not have at least the very same rights Turks, Arabs, Jews and others enjoy? Turkey’s Kurdish problem has been a rather difficult and bloody one. A resolution within Turkey’s national and territorial integrity requires a vigorous political undertaking. A resolution cannot be an easy and quick one, but it is a pressing need. Can’t we see that since the November 2015 elections and the rehashed presidential rule obsessions of the tall man we have lost more lives than what we lost in the Cyprus intervention? Reports on casualties have become routine on evening television newscasts. Is it not sad?
There is a fire next door. Irrespective of whether Turkey accepts it or not, we carried fuel to that fire as well. The absence of government rule – thanks to the global police policies of the U.S. – turned the region into a terrorism-free area. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), other Islamist zealots, mild and not mild Syrian rebel groups and worst a government applying all sorts of deadly weapons on its own population have turned Turkey’s immediate neighborhood into a nightmare. Worse, millions of people are in Turkey or at Europe’s doors seeking a secure life.
In all this mess, while Russia has been trying to salvage the Syrian dictator, Syrian Kurds have been effectively cooperating – of course preserving and advancing their own dream of statehood – with the Americans in the fight against Islamist terrorists. Ankara, obsessed with the threat of Syrian Kurds carving themselves an independent state and setting an example to the Turkish Kurds, has been in efforts to dissuade the Americans and stop the U.S. from cooperating with the Kurds. Can Turkey enter Syria? No. Can Turkish planes fly over Syria? No… Since the “brave” downing of the Russian jet last December Syrian airspace is off limits for Turkey.
Can Turkey open a new front in the Syrian war through Turkey? I would not expect Turkey’s Kurdish phobia could swing it to that degree of craziness but apparently that’s the latest masterpiece of the tall, bold, bald, ever angry man. Let’s hope the Americans won’t buy such an idea.