Only a statesman can solve Turkey’s Kurdish issue

By Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami:

A wishful article by Barçın Yinanç, entitled ‘Turkey’s Y generation will solve the Kurdish problem’  appeared in Hurriyet Daily, where she shared and analyzed her experience of the Gezi Park protests and hoped for a solution to the Kurdish issue by the ‘Y’ generation of Turkey protesting at Gezi park and elsewhere in the country.

This article has compelled me to write an opinion piece for my readers here. I myself have witnessed many street protests in different Indian cities against the incumbent government, primarily by the anti-corruption brigade. The euphoria of these anti- corruption demonstrations fizzled out with the coming of monsoon rains in Delhi and elsewhere in the country.

It is noteworthy that these kind of youth protests in countries that have established democratic rules, where people are allowed to freely elect and reject their leaders through ballet boxes, do not sustain for long. The environmental protests may go on for years against projects that threaten the remaining green areas in the cities and the uprooting of trees and forested areas. Be that as it may, when elections are not far-off, these youth should have worked on mobilizing voters to make their demands felt instead of vandalizing the state infrastructure.

Interestingly, the two prominent and ideologically divergent media houses of the country – the Zaman, run by Gulenists, and Hurriyet, mouth piece of Kemalists  – are competitively spewing venom against one Man, the Prime Minister Erdogan. The nexus of two distinct ideologies to bring down Erdogan is a hallmark of the recent nationwide protests.

The same groups of ideologues who discreetly oppose the Turkish-Kurdish peace deal are, subsequently, playing into the hands of regional and global foreign powers.

It is pertinent to say that the chronic Kurdish issue – which has taken a huge death toll and alienated nearly a quarter of the Turkish population from the mainstream of the country – was put into action by the autocratic leaders/juntas of the Kemalist republic, not by the AK party. Even the identity of Kurds was denied and they were termed ‘Mountain Turks’. Nomenclature of their cities and villages were changed, the use of the Kurdish language were banned in public and people were sent to jail for exercising their basic rights. Not so long ago, Kurdish lawmaker Leyla Zena was put behind bars for speaking Kurdish in the country’s parliament.

The decades’ long assimilation policies were imposed by the same Kemalist and nationalist ideologues whose progeny is described as the ‘Y’ generation of today’s Turkey. Ideologically and methodologically they are neither compatible nor eligible to solve the longstanding Kurdish issue.

Only a statesman like Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan is capable of implanting the peace deal. He possesses enough authority and public support to take a huge political risk in solving the Kurdish problem. The other big point is that Erdogan sees the Kurdish problem through Islamic spectacles, where most Kurds who are Sunni Moslems can be modelled in his schematics of religious brotherhood within Turkey and in neighbouring countries with a substantial Kurdish population mix.

It is of great significance that, in the Middle East in general and Turkey in particular, Ethnic Nationalism is dying down on the behest of religious/sectarian nationalism. The rise of religious/ sectarian nationalism is also galvanized by the Syrian stalemate where civil war has turned into Shia-Sunni strife that has already spilt over into Iraq and Lebanon. The repercussions of the Syrian uprising have aggravated this menace and seized the whole region in its grip.

The youth at Gezi Park may be well aware of their country’s problems, and agitating for freedom they feel is being encroached on by the incumbent government by condemning various laws passed by the majority AKP-led parliament. Their protests against crony capitalism, which is allegedly widespread in the AKP government, may be legitimate. The environmental issues, that are important for the overall health of the nation, are well taken by the country.

There is no doubt that Erdogan takes things personally and the entire AKP is revolving around his charisma: an example of weak political institutions where the individual is more powerful than the institution (party) itself. Yet this is the history of the Muslim world, where strong individuals are loved, appreciated and supported by the masses over and above the politico-religious framework of governance.

Under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey has been reborn as a nation of progress and prosperity, with aspirations toward the best ideals of democracy and freedom. Within the last decade, this ‘statesman’ has given Turkey a functioning, independent judiciary, 206 new dams, heavy investment in education with thousands of  new teachers, and a fiscal position that is the envy of Europe and the EU. At the same time, his administration has transformed Turkey into a regional energy and air transport hub and added 900,000 hectares of forested land in the country’s landmass. Since 2003, the Turkish economy has seen a three-fold increase and become the 17th largest economy of the world.

The so-called ‘Y’ generation has created havoc in the country, where 89 police vehicles, 42 private vehicles, 22 buses, 94 shops and one apartment were vandalized by these ‘peaceful- democratic’ protestors. They also sabotaged the offices of the ruling AK Party.

Suffice to say that it is futile to think that these same vandals could solve chronic and long impending issues such as Turkey’s Kurdish problem.

If things go according to plan the two insistent individuals, Prime Minister Erdogan and jailed PKK head Abdullah Ocalan, can not only decide the fate of the Turkish Republic but also that of the Levant, Iraq and Iran. History bears testimony that all the major peace accords in the world have been put into action by statesmen, not by the young ‘marauders’.

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


Copyright © 2013

8 Responses to Only a statesman can solve Turkey’s Kurdish issue
  1. Raza
    June 20, 2013 | 12:43

    Interesting article touched all the corners of the thorny issue, it seems that Erdogan- Ojalan partnership for peace is on the right course but enemies are many and very powerful too.

  2. Tim Upham
    June 21, 2013 | 04:56

    But will it include legalizing outlawed Kurdish political parties, and allowing the use of the Kurdish language in education and media?

  3. Waqar
    June 21, 2013 | 09:21

    Very insightful and well researched article, time for Kurds to be realistic and fetch maximum, out of the forthcoming opportunity.

  4. Suleiyman
    June 21, 2013 | 11:19

    The Kurdish language has already been legalized and officially declared as official language in all govt agencies, including courts. There is a minority of people who oppose the peace process and would take any chance to attack it (for agendas that come from outside) but the majority of people are content to give the peace process a chance.

  5. kuvan
    June 21, 2013 | 19:12

    I do not agree with yiour opinion that Only a statesman can solve Turkey’s Kurdish issue
    .What can solve kurdish Turkish problem is court of justice which it does not exist in Turkey.
    many poeple nowadays tend to solve thier problem through using the mean of force ,blackmail.bullying actions rather than let the altumate justful power decide who is right and who is wrong and who should pay who and give thier rights back..

  6. Raza
    June 22, 2013 | 05:55

    @ Kuvan, Court of justice interprets the laws laid down by the lawmakers in the Parliament, judges’ job is to interpret the same law and give justice with that framework. Though judges are not infallible, yet you need law that deals citizen with equality and neutrality.
    Chronic- issues such as Kurdish problem in Turkey can only be solved by the Statesman who can swim against the flow of river and amend /abolish the constitution/ laws of discrimination that are being exercised from decades to discriminate the Kurds.

  7. kuvan
    June 24, 2013 | 16:44

    In a civilazed society Statesman is not the one who is suppose to changes and amend laws but rather the public and poeple who are the decider of thier fates and decide what type of laws and they need or want for thier lives and thats what democrcy is about ,which it means rule of poeple by poeple rather than soley by only a powerful man.the question is can we call the Turkish state as a democratic state where where minorty are protected from the dictatorship of majorty?

  8. Raza
    June 25, 2013 | 05:15

    @ kuvan, In democracies; ultimately it is the people who elect the leader by popular votes based on the ideology, programme of the political party and, of course the charisma of the leader. People decide their fate through votes by every 4 to 5 years (depending on prescribed term of the government). Since the formation of Republic, Turkey has seen decades of single party dictatorship (Kemalist), military coups and weak governments under the same boots and stooges. Under the Erdogan and his AK Party, Turkey has been enjoying best phase of republic life under the successive democratically elected governments.
    Turkey is 99% Muslim and the religious and ethnic minorities are enjoying the freest phase of their life since the formation of the republic. Now Assyrians are praying in Halki seminary, Kurds are enjoying further rights, Roma people find solace( when most secular country of the world, France has banished them from their soil) and pious Muslims are allowed to practice their religion freely (still some restrictions are there).

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