The Kurdish peace process, the Middle East and radical democracy

The Kurdish peace process, the Middle East and radical democracy

Selahattin Demirtaş*
One of the main principles we have been advocating for the 24 years since our political representation in Parliament began with the Democracy Party (DEP) is to ground our policies in the understanding that the resolution of the Kurdish problem cannot be considered separately from the democratization of Turkey. 

This fundamental problem has strong historical roots and these roots are interpreted differently depending on one’s definition, understanding and approach to history. The process of dialogue today constitutes an important step for those who approach the issue from a historical point of view. We have come a long way in the past year and a half, even longer than over the past 24 years. Large segments of society have begun discussing the Kurdish problem, what the Kurds demand and understanding the “others” for the first time. The process of dialogue has broken down the marginalization in society, creating a need for understanding each other through dialogue. Being able to even talk about a “dialogue” itself is an achievement.

On the other hand, within the last two and half years, the peace process has not yet yielded any concrete or practical gains in terms of democracy and freedom. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is currently preparing “internal security laws,” which would create a police state and reverse the process of democratization. The party responsible for the lack of any concrete gains is the government. The solution to this is transparency. Transparency during negotiation processes ensures societal support and enhances the chance of success of the negotiation, because it also generates the participation of civil society in the process.

As the process begins to accelerate, the Kurdish problem and its interlocutors will expend more energy in the struggle for democracy. Within this context, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is working to create a political line representing the main dynamic of change within Turkey and the Middle East in order to provide policies and solutions in such fields.

Currently, the Middle East is going through a process in which new borders, forms of governance and social orders exist along with wars and massacres. The situation is even more tragic for Turkey because the past 10 years of Turkey’s foreign policy, referred to as the “[Ahmet] Davutoğlu era,” is also a story of failure. According to the AKP’s foreign policy approach, new models created by the peoples of the Middle East, such as the Rojava Revolution, should not take place in Syria. In this context, the knot of the new social order forming in the Middle East is tied up in the peace process and in Kobane.

We need to focus on transforming the ongoing dialogue into an actual negotiation process with an integrated point of view toward Turkey and the four parts of Kurdistan. The Kurdish movement is trying to take a progressive step in the Middle East’s turmoil. The cantons of Rojava are trying to experiment with the practice of democratic self-governance. This is a political movement for which women’s freedom is central, an exceptional feature in the current climate of the Middle East.

The democratic autonomy that we recommend as a form of government for all peoples of the Middle East is not something we are debating or defending for the first time. There are many examples of this in practice in the world; there are autonomous regions in China, Spain and many other places.

Democratic autonomy and the idea of going beyond the nation-state idea represent a further demand, a progressive step for Kurds as well as for the people of the Middle East. What we are talking about here is a governing system in which groups of people govern through their own autonomous laws and the nation is ruled by a model of democratic autonomy.

In this context, there is no doubt that the HDP has its eyes on becoming the governing party as the true and only main opposition party of Turkey with multilingual, multi-identity, and pro-participation views. However, as a party with an eye on the seat of governance, coming into power is not our only goal. Today, from its least significant organization to its most centralist one, in every arena it enters, the HDP will organize radical democracy. It will build such a system, putting into practice a truly democratic understanding through concrete policies.

* Selahattin Demirtaş is co-chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). This is an abridged version of the original article in Turkish Policy Quarterly’s (TPQ) Winter 2015 issue.