Kurds Are The Only Hope For The Future Of Turkey

By Ozkan Kocakaya:

The attempted coup in Turkey on July 15 may have shocked the global audience, but it came as little surprise to those who have been paying attention to the Kurdish issue. Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, had repeatedly warned Erdogan that if the “period of resolution with the Kurds end, there will be attempted coups and you will become like Morsi”, and he was proven right. The root cause of the political instability that has led directly to the attempted coup is not that Erdogan is a totalitarian ruler driving the country towards dictatorship, but the unresolved Kurdish problem. Or rather, it’s another indication that the system of governance and the political mentality in Turkey has become obsolete as evidenced by its inability to solve the Kurdish issue. Erdogan’s slow drive towards autocracy is the revelation of the limit Turkey has reached, not the cause of it.

When the Turkish government ended the ceasefire with the PKK and the peace process last July, on the back of HDP’s success in the June elections, it was a hint of the insincerity of it all in the first place. The ceasefire that began in 2013 was a powerful political tool utilised by Erdogan to continue to garner votes from Muslim Kurds. When the pro-Kurdish HDP broke through the 10% threshold in last June’s election, a first in Turkey’s history, it signalled to the government that religion bore little importance over ethnicity for the Kurds.

The significance of this cannot be over-estimated. Successive Turkish governments have attempted various long term strategies in resolving the Kurdish problem that focused on deterring any ambition by Kurds for self-rule, and they always failed, hence the state’s constant willingness to resort to military conflict. For decades, the emphasis was one of assimilation through enforced nationalism that culminated in the official ban of the Kurdish language and identity in the 1980s. That the PKK gathered support and offered an effective and determined armed resistance to the state was proof to the government that their great assimilation project had failed and nationality also bore little importance over ethnicity for the Kurds.

The state then resorted to escalating the conflict against the PKK in the 90s, destroyed thousands of Kurdish villages, displaced hundreds of thousands and committed war crimes on an industrial scale. The parallels with what Erdogan’s government has been doing cannot be ignored. What this proves is the inability of the political system in Turkey to develop to be an inclusive one. Had the state ever made sincere efforts in reconciling and resolving the Kurdish problem, it would have naturally forced the system to evolve and accommodate significant political problems of the type that are now beginning to spill into armed conflicts on multiple fronts.

Ocalan - the key

Imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan – key to solution

The immediate problem may be Erdogan and his willingness to resort to any means to preserve power, which looks increasingly likely to result in a civil war over the next few years. But the real issue is a legacy from the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the fear of loss of territory that still haunts the country at a state level, hence the disproportionate nationalism that is practised and encouraged, not just in Turkey but across the Turkish diaspora. It is deep-rooted and prevents the state from offering any solution to the Kurdish problem. This leaves the HDP as the only route out of the current deadlock. It is an odd paradox that the Kurds have ended up being the only hope the Turkish government has of learning to evolve politically to prevent their domestic and foreign political problems becoming armed conflicts. It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s the only option that doesn’t lead to war in the long run, and Ocalan is the key to this.

Ozkan Kocakaya is originally from Turkey, of Kurdish origin. After gaining a BSc and an MSc from the University of Liverpool in IT and business related subjects, he began a career in the finance industry, where he still earns a living. Having a keen interest in literature and a passion for Kurdistan, he devotes his spare time to writing fiction to promote Kurdish history and values, as well as blogging about current affairs in his home country.

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