THE YEAR OF THE KURDS?
"One who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; one who does not ask a question remains a fool forever." ~ Chinese proverb.
One of the opinion writers over at TDN, Dogu Ergil, has come to the conclusion there needs to be A New Assessment of the Kurdish Issue:
2006 will be the definitive year for Turkey in bringing lucidity to its understanding of the so-called Kurdish problem. Either this will be dealt with as it was before -- namely, a security problem emanating from terrorism, spearheaded by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) -- or a mental breakthrough, call it a paradigm shift, will take place and the matter will be conceived of as a structural problem that has its roots in the social, political, cultural and economic fabric of the wider society. If this mental transformation can't be accomplished, Turkey's capacity to transform itself into a full-fledged democracy and affluent country will be squandered on security concerns that are basically of its own making.
I don't understand why 2006 is designated as the critical year. The "Kurdish problem" has been dragging on since 1923, so I'm not getting overly excited about pronouncements that this is the year everything is going to be solved. Or that this is the year anything is going to be started. Certainly a mental breakthrough needs to be made on the part of Turks, but the rising Islamism and the rising nationalism inside Turkey today makes me think that the needed mental breakthrough will be sidetracked by an increasing clash between these other two extremes. After all, rising Islamism and rising nationalism are Turkish problems and these kinds of problems have always taken priority over the "Kurdish problem." This holds true even among those on the Turkish left who have always been long on words of support for the "Kurdish problem" but very short on action.
There is, however, a nugget of truth in Ergil's opinion piece:
The stark truth of the so-called Kurdish question, which I discovered after a comprehensive study of the matter in mid 1990s, was that we Turks really know nothing about this issue because we have never asked the Kurds what their problem was. Yet we punished them for their unruly behavior until the imbroglio reached the dimensions of an unnamed civil war, waged between 1884 [note: that should read, 1984--Mizgîn] and 1999, that has not yet ended, although its flame has subsided.
Can you imagine asking a Kurd what in the hell might be wrong? It is the simplest approach to any problem between people, and yet it is the one that has never been attempted. The problem is that, after so many decades, I don't see enough trust, at least on the Kurdish side, to give an honest answer even if the question were asked. The usual reaction to the "Kurdish problem" is to tell the Kurds a bunch of lies to pacify them a little bit and then send in the army.
If a Kurd were asked, "What is the problem," the initial reaction might be something like this: First, shock that the question is asked, slowly giving way to a smirk and a wink to one's heval as the question rises in the Kurdish mind: "What are they up to now?" Finally, deep suspicion settles in like a long, cold winter.
The problem is that there is no trust, so before the question can be asked, an atmosphere of trust must be created. How to do that? First, it has to come from the side which holds official power--the state. A state has the obligation to protect its citizens, not wantonly abuse them, as has been the case since 1925. Let me quote something, that will serve as an example of Turkish policies since 1925 up to the present:
Shaykh Said's revolt marked the beginning of "implacable Kemalism." Systematic deportation and razing of villages, brutality and killing of innocents, martial law or special regimes in Kurdistan now became the commonplace experience of Kurds whenever they defied the state. The army, deployed in strength for the first time since Lausanne, now found control of Kurdistan to be its prime function and raison d'être . . . After 1945, apart from the Korean war, 1949-52 and the invasion of Cyprus, 1974, the only Turkish army operations continued to be against the Kurds.
A Modern History of the Kurds, David McDowall, p.198.
In the closing months of the last year, Turkish "black operations" were carried out in Kurdistan, with a response by the people that included massive demonstrations and protests. Erdogan showed up at funerals. The Turkish press began a feeding frenzy over the situation, with everyone wringing their hands. Maybe all of this was because the EU was watching. Maybe all of it was because it scares the state to death when 70,000 Kurds show up in Amed to protest. Whatever it was, though, it was working. It got everyone's attention. Big promises were made to get to the bottom of the problem and we even learned that we were a sub-identity.
Nothing came of any of it and there is a lesson here for Kurds which can be found in the history of the Polish Solidarnosc--Solidarity--movement. Never stop the protests, the demonstrations, the strikes, the marches, the sit-ins, or any other form of civil disobedience, until you have something solid in your hands! Continue to press with all these means until you have concessions from the government, and not just empty words from politicians and newspaper editors. Ergil refers to these empty words, especially referencing Erdogan's speech last August in Amed, and states the fact that Erdogan has no concrete suggestions to begin to make a change with regard to the "Kurdish problem."
It does not seem to me that anyone on the Turkish side has any concrete suggestions. If they do, they are keeping those suggestions to themselves.
It is not enough to grant "many rights to the Kurds in lieu of upgrading its legal and political standards to fit that of the European Union," when the entire structure of the state, as formed by legislation, was created and perpetuated by an ideology founded on Mussolini's fascism. The same fascism is the foundation of an education system that only serves to turn out more of the same thinking--in Turkish language only. How, then, can Erdogan say, with a straight face, "the Kurdish issue does not belong to a part of our nation [only to the Kurds] ... We accept it as real and are ready to face it ..."
No one is ready to face it, not even our intrepid opinion writer at TDN. He bases his writing on a recent article by Stephen Kinzer, Kurds in Turkey: The Big Change, but seems to ignore certain facts presented therein, and naturally I mean the eventual dealing that the state will have to come to with those big, bad bogeymen of every Turk's nightmare, the PKK. The "black operations" carried out by the state last November on the Kurdish population are proof of that. No one in government is willing to admit that the state was engaging in one of its most well-used tactics to create more instability in a region already devastated. On the contrary, the state points the finger in the usual direction, toward the PKK.
We also have the fact that the state ignored completely the PKK's unilateral ceasefire, lasting from 1999 to 2004. This strikes me as creating a bit of a credibilty problem. I mean, if the state had ever been serious about the "Kurdish problem," it had a great opportunity to start correcting the problem during the ceasefire. Instead, the ceasefire became another opportunity for the Turkish state to miss an opportunity.
The result of all of this, as it seems to me, is that the state prefers to use the excuse of The War on Terror® to continue to ignore the "Kurdish problem" it created, while it's own little al-Qaeda-linked contribution to terror, Turkish Hezbollah, appears to be conducting its own "black ops".
Not even the EU is willing to ask Kurds what is wrong. Instead, we witness Joost Lagendijk urging Kurds to cooperate with the AKP because it offers the best hope of democracy, as well as counseling Kurds to lay down their weapons and give up the right to legitimate armed struggle.
Meanwhile, the TCK is reworded so cleverly that it can continue to be interpreted and used in the old way. The 10% threshold is still opposed by AKP, among others. The deep state continues to conduct "black operations" in Kurdistan. Neglect of the region also continues, as witnessed in the recent bird flu scandal. All of this is under AKP's watch.
I agree that the question needs to be asked and the mental transformation needs to be made, but 2006 is not the year. No one is ready to ask the Kurds what the problem is because they are not ready to respect Kurds. They are all too busy talking, too busy giving ridiculous, self-serving advice, too busy with denial.
Besides, with all this talking, why bother to ask the question anyway? No one is able to hear the answer.