Anti-Erdogan protests and future of Turkish-Kurdish peace process

By Pervez Bilgrami:

Anti–Erdogan protests that have engulfed Turkey for a fortnight have resurfaced the whole complexion of the Turkish social fabric. Feckless opposition parties that were not able to politically challenge Erdogan and seemed demoralized after the hat-trick of election defeats by the ruling AKP, are trying to benefit from the outcome of the Gezi park protests.

The same CHP that tried its best to defeat the AKP through court ban and military coup is now trying to grab power through vandalism and sabotaging the economy. The genuine environmental protest at Gezi Park was taken over by CHP supporters throughout the main cities of the country.

Suffice to say that Erdogan stunned most of his internal and external opponents by opening a peace process with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in the beginning of this New Year. The process was going smoothly since the Nevrooz declaration of Ocalan read by the BDP deputies in front of massive crowds in Diyarbakir on 22 March 2013 and later by the withdrawal of PKK militants from their Turkish hideouts to the Kandil Mountains in Iraq.

It is pertinent to say that neither the international nor the neighbouring countries were happy with the positive outcome of the Turkey-PKK peace process. The same forces discreetly tried to sabotage the process, although publicly they welcomed the peace deal.

Locally, the main opposition CHP and the junior opposition MHP never supported the government in the peace process and tried to dislodge the process with provocative tongues. Ideologically the CHP leaders have never recognized Kurdish identity and always tried to assimilate the Kurdish population within the Turkish ethnic domain: they even used to call eastern Kurds “The Mountain Turks”.

The MHP on the other hand has always relied on Turkish nationalism to garner votes. In the 2011 elections, it was AKP who came in to power with more than 50% of popular votes and tried to solve this chronic  issue. The ongoing protests against Erdogan may have a negative effect on the process where all other regional and local players do not want this process to succeed entirely.

An AKP-BDP alliance is the need of the hour, when most of the secularists and nationalist swho are not favoring the peace process are gunning against Erdogan and relentlessly opposing his plans and policies that were even featured in the AKP election manifesto.

Although Erdogan is still the most popular Turkish leader in the country, yet the international media and its local allies are in a full-blown war of words in their exaggerated evalaluations of the protests.

The massive rally Erdogan addressed at Ankara airport  on  June 9th after his arrival from a North African tour clearly signifies that he will not bow down by the protests and will show his strength at proposed AKP gatherings in Istanbul and Ankara on June 15 and 16th respectively.

The Teksim renovation project a major development and renovation project led by Istanbul municipal corporation is clearly an ideological programme led by the AKP party and its leader. Those who are opposing at Teksim square and elsewhere in the country are not merely opposing the hacking of few trees in the park but the wholesale ideology of the AKP which now dominates the scene in Turkish politics.

The Kurds who have got some rights back during the reign of Erdogan may become his main political supporters, if the Turkey-PKK peace deal reaches its final outcome. Keeping in mind the other political forces, the AKP-BDP (Kurdish) alliance will not only be a force to reckon with but will destroy all the anti Erdogan adversaries. This will be the most fit answer to the discreet opponents of the ongoing peace process.

A Turkish Kurdish alliance will not only strengthen Erdogan domestically but also outside the borders of the country where Kurds are in good numbers. The broader Turkish Kurdish alliance from Turkey to Iraq to Iran and Syria will unequivocally shift the tectonic plates of the region.

It remains to be seen how long these protests will continue and how far the opposition forces will go in opposing Erdogan. The vandalism and destruction of state infrastructure and its effect on economy will definitely impact the performance of the government.

The support base of Erdogan seems intact and Kurds should be wise enough to be with Erdogan in the establishment of democratic  process of the country. This is the most important juncture of Turkish politics viz a viz Kurds, as all other political factions in the country are vying for their support.

If the AKP is able to get a good number of Kurdish votes in the coming elections that will strengthen Erdogan and help in solving the Kurdish issue once and for all. So Kurds should not fall into the trap of opposition forces whose ideology has always been anti-Kurd. The policies of governments before the AKP had immensely harmed the Kurds. They not only supported and promoted the ethnic discrimination of Kurds since the inception of modern Turkish republic but also used terror as a tool to further alienate them from the mainstream of the Turkish social fabric.

It will be apt for Turkish Kurds to support the democratic process where peaceful assembly of people must be encouraged as a meaningful opposition. They must remain totally abstinent from vandalism and economic destruction of the country. As Sırrı Onder, the BDP lawmaker from Istanbul and the originator of the Gezi Park protests, stated in his interview after meeting with President Gul, the “protests should now be converted into a festive gathering”.

Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami is a Delhi-based independent analyst on international relations and geopolitics. His special focus is on West Asian & North African affairs.

8 Responses to Anti-Erdogan protests and future of Turkish-Kurdish peace process
  1. john
    June 13, 2013 | 12:22

    It’s good that KT is publishing different viewpoints on this matter … but I couldn’t disagree more with this clever but deceptive article. The author clearly has an Islamist agenda. How would that help the Kurds? How has it helped them in Iran, for example?

    Sure, Kurds must not trust the CHP and right wing Turk nationalists but why, for one minute, should they trust Erdogan? The peace process is to be welcomed but, so far this year, real movement has come from one side only. Rather than a disastrous AKP-BDP alliance (to bring in a more repressive Islamist regime, with largely token concessions given to Kurds by Erdogan for reasons of expediency), the BDP should strengthen its alliances with freedom-loving Turks and others.

    By all means negotiate over Kurdish rights with Erdogan, but put him under continual mass pressure.

    Lastly, it is misleading to quote Onder as though he is now somehow supportive of the government. Onder has clearly opposed the harsh state crackdown that has begun and could escalate — and so, I believe, must all Kurds.

    • Raza
      June 14, 2013 | 10:37

      @ John, It seems that you are basically not aware of the governing structure of Iran; based on Vilayte Faghih model of governance orchestrated by late Ayatollah Khomeini and this model is paradoxical to basic democracy where unelected supreme leader holds final say and veto power. Comparing Turkey to Iran is higlly paradoxical.
      Coming to your Islamist point, People do get united under the Ethnic, religious, sectarian, linguistic and ideological umbrella and I find nothing wrong, if Turks and Kurds in Turkey or elsewhere in the region find unity under Islamic/Sunni umbrella with equal rights.

      • john
        June 14, 2013 | 13:09

        @Raza You are basically wrong. I am against all theocratism and very much doubt the Kurds would come out well overall in your schema for Turkey (some Kurd politicians would do well, no doubt, but not a majority of Kurds). But I also acknowledge that many people might agree with you.
        And what about the Alevi Kurds?

        • Raza
          June 17, 2013 | 18:22

          @ John, That is your own prerogative; As far as Alevi (offshoot of Shia Islam) Kurds are concerned they are not significant in numbers amongst the total Kurdish population of Turkey. It is more important to discuss the Kermanshahi & IIam Kurds in Iran; they are predominantly twelver Shia’s, the state religion of Iran and also Fayli Kurds in Iraq they are adherent of Shia faith too. Still the predominant (approximately 90%, and that is for- sure, more than many) majority of Kurds living in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria are the followers of Sunni Islam.
          When push comes to shove, people need umbrella to get united. Kurds, being very significant Ethnic group of volatile and imploding Middle East where sectarian rivalry have resurfaced due to many external and internal reasons and that makes their religious identity more important.
          Note: Like other countries in the Middle East, Turkey, Iran, Iraq & Syria do not conduct the Census with the question of Ethnic and religion identity. So the Ethnic and Sectarian figures are unscientific, unverified and unverifiable in the said countries.

  2. Caner Turk
    June 15, 2013 | 11:57

    Very Interesting and objective article, seems like people outside of Turkey are more aware of the politic/economic situation of the country than the Turkish resident here.

  3. Suleiyman
    June 17, 2013 | 20:56

    Do you recommend the Kurds march along with people whose parties previously ran governments that didn’t even allow Kurds to speak their language and wear their costumes and go against a guy who has at least made Kurdish the official second language in Turkey and started the peace process?? You are accusing the author of having Islamic agendas, and you also seem to have agendas as well. Otherwise how can you make such a rediculous thought that Kurds should still go with the protesters??? Even Ojalan and PKK have started the peace process so what do you know about Turkey and its Kurds. Please don’t tell me you are Kurdish. You have agendas and we both know what they are.

  4. john
    June 17, 2013 | 23:02

    Suleiyman – Since you ask, I am an Irish Brit and my opposition to ALL theocratism stems partly from observing the baleful effect of 50 years of Catholic Church domination in Ireland following independence. I won’t go into it here (except to say that many books were banned, women subdued and children abused). I fully support a negotiated peace process in Turkey but fear that a BDP-AKP ‘Sunni’ coalition would dash many of the hopes of so many brave, self-sacrificing Kurds in Turkey. I’d also be worried about the ill-treatment of non-Sunni minorities. That’s all I have to say here, for now. My agenda was to provoke debate – and I really hope there’s more discussion on KT about this very important issue.

  5. Suleiyman
    June 18, 2013 | 11:33

    So if Ardogan was not from an Islamic party and had initiated the peace process would you then not advise the Kurds to go against him?

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