Saturday, March 18, 2006

THE KURDISH PROBLEM, NEWROZ AND IDENTITY


"One cannot solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created it." ~ Albert Einstein.


There are a couple of items on the menu today.

The first item is a home cooked meal by none other than Mehmet Ali Birand, who has another good opinion piece over at TDN. I say, "another good opinion piece," because he has written a number of opinions on which I can agree, at least partially if not always completely.

Regarding the PKK, TSK and the dirty war, he wrote something of great significance regarding PKK:


In the past the Kurdish problem was synonymous with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorism. All measures taken were aimed at eliminating the PKK and stopping its murders. No one used to study the source of this violence.



The source of the "violence," that's the point. Better yet would be to ask why was PKK founded? Why did it take root? Why was there a need for PKK? It is said that the education of a child begins twenty years before, with the education of the parents. In a similar way, the source of the founding of PKK began decades prior to its actual founding, with the founding of the Republic itself. The TC's early legislation clearly showed in which direction it was moving in its efforts to "found a nation," and the question of identity was at the core of the founding efforts. As such, language was a major focus of legislation and it was directed against Kurds. From HRW:


Soon after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, its government embarked upon a radical program of nation-building. Ethnic diversity was perceived as a danger to the integrity of the state, and the Kurds, as the largest non-Turkish ethnic group, obviously constituted the most serious threat. They were decreed to be Turks, and their language and culture were to be Turkish. All external symbols of their ethnic identity were suppressed....There was no official discrimination against those Kurds who agreed to be assimilated: they could reach the highest positions in the state apparatus. Those who refused, however, often met with severe repression.14

The use of Kurdish—along with other languages—was prohibited in teaching as was its public use.15 By 1930, publishing in languages other than Turkish was prohibited by an act of parliament that was heralded under the slogan of “Citizen, Speak Turkish!” (Vatandas, Türkçe Konus!).16 The Kurdish names of towns and villages in southeastern Turkey were also changed to Turkish.17

In time, the architects of the new Turkish nation-state began to deny outright the existence of other ethnicities, especially Kurds, and attempted to create murky Turkish genealogies for them.18 Visions of a new civic nationalism based on social traits transmitted by education rather than on “consanguinity”degenerated into a rigid ethno-nationalism.19 While there was no outright discrimination based on ethnicity, the lines between Turkish ethnicity and nationality began to be blurred beyond distinction.20 A leading analyst of Turkey writes that, “The Kurds were relegated to the status of ‘mountain Turks.’ The denial of identity went to absurd lengths. In case a Turkish soldier should hear the word Kurd mentioned while on duty in the southeast, his service handbook informed him that this was a nickname born of the ‘kürt, kürt’ sound made when crunching through the ‘mountain Turkish’ snow.”21

Blanket denial of ethnic identity—a reaction to the reemergence in the 1960s and 1970s of public expressions of Kurdish ethnic identity—reached a highpoint after the military coup of 1980. A month before the military relinquished power in the elections of November 1983, Law No. 2932, “The Law Concerning Publications and Broadcasts in Languages Other Than Turkish,” was passed. It declared that “The mother tongue of all Turkish citizens is Turkish ” and, defying anthropology, forbade the use of any language but Turkish “as a mother tongue.” It also prohibited all publishing in Kurdish.



As, this, the ideological foundation began to take shape in Ankara, there were ongoing, brutal military operations against Kurds throughout Kurdistan, ranging from the reprisals in the wake of the Sheikh Said rebellion, the Agri Dag rebellion, and Dersim. Dersim ended in the slaughter of tens of thousands and it was not until the 1960s that Kurdish identity became a public question once again, and once again this public expression was met with violence on the part of the state. This was the atmosphere that gave birth to legitimate, armed Kurdish struggle.

PKK was always more than simply an armed resistance movement. It always had a political component. Mehmet, in one paragraph, makes a quick transition from PKK to DTP, linking the two by a preference for working by political means. This slight of hand leaves out a lot because PKK, through ERNK, did work by political means. The DTP co-chairs have stated publicly in an interview with The New Anatolian, reference via The Agonist and which I commented on back in December, 2005, that PKK and Ocalan are realities of the political situation. Clearly, DTP has been affected by PKK. Everything regarding the Kurdish situation in the North has been affected by PKK in one way or another and there is no avoiding this fact.

Otherwise, I agree with Mehmet's assessment about the growth of the influence of the DTP. For the most part, I applaud their approach in challenging the status quo. Are they gaining ground? Good! I feel that they dropped the ball too soon after Semdinli. They should not have settled for mealy-mouthed promises on the part of Ankara to get to the bottom of things, but they should have kept going until they had something solid in their hands. Otherwise I urge them to keep going in the direction they're heading.

As for Mehmet's list of measures, I agree that the RTUK policy is useless. I agree that there is no separatist propaganda issuing from Roj TV, because PKK is not a terrorist organization. I agree that if Roj is shut down, Kurds will pick it up again. There's something to be said for stubbornness. I would add that if there had never been a paranoid founding ideology that had as its goal the denial of Kurdish identity, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion today.

Proper amnesty? Hell, yeah, but what is this about Turkish parties making themselves more influential in "the region?" Let's think back to the last elections, shall we? Who got the majority of votes in "the region." What has that done for "equality?" Oh, well, at least Mehmet has a sense of humor. I reiterate: You go, DTP.

Lastly, but not least, is the measure regarding the "economic pie." Mehmet is right. There was a unilateral ceasefire begun in 1999, at which time Ankara had plenty of opportunity to show its good will by beginning a serious and equitable reconstruction of "the region," but it did nothing. There is still a total lack of genuine momentum on the part of Ankara to do anything to repair the destruction or to build bridges to negotiate with the people. Certainly, there has been a lack of potential negotiators on the Kurdish side, but I think that the DTP mayors are perfectly capable of forming a committee to represent Kurds at a negotiating table with Ankara.

The question is, does Ankara have the will? Or is Ankara too wrapped up in "the western region?" If so, why does it continue to cling with a death grip on the second wife it has no love for? If there is no will, it is time to set her free.

The second item on the menu today is found over at The New Anatolian, in the form of a holiday dish cooked up by Ilnur Cevik. Poor old Ilnur. He's still worried about Newroz, but he says something significant:


In recent years the Turkish authorities decided that Nevruz was an ancient Turkish festivity and that it should be celebrated all over Turkey, not just in the areas dominated by our citizens of Kurdish origin. Turkish authorities started organizing special celebrations where many prominent personalities jumped over bonfires, as the tradition requires. Of course these so-called festivities were completely artificial and lacked any kind of public support.



Exactly, and contrary to the right-wing propaganda of Abdulhaluk Cay, who tried to argue that the Newroz celebration was an ancient Turkish tradition closely associated with the Gray Wolf myth.

I don't understand the paranoia about burning tires, though. This happens all over Kurdistan for Newroz. On the other hand, I do understand the paranoia about Newroz as a political event. In Turkey, thanks to the prevailing foundational ideology, everything is a potential political event, even the wearing of headscarves. If Kurds had not been repressed since the beginning, Newroz would only be a New Year celebration. Kurdish language would simply be one of many that the citizens spoke. Ditto on Kurdish alphabet, Kurdish names, Kurdish colors. . . you get my drift.

Newroz has not been a time of "peace and calm" in the North because "peace and calm" have not been permitted to Kurds. Not too long ago, Newroz celebrations were banned, something which is completely consistent with Kemalism. Completely consistent with Kurdish character, the people defied the injustice of the ban to celebrate anyway. Let's face it, the majority of the violence at Newroz has been perpetrated by security forces against the people, with thousands arrested, dozens injured and even killed, year after year, in what has been characterized by Amnesty International as "excessive force." This was as recently as 2002.

Furthermore, Ilnur is worried that Kurds are going to allow PKK to hijack Newroz once again, turning it into a new phase of tensions. The new phase of tensions began in November, in Semdinli, and this phase was not started by PKK.

In reality, DTP had planned to "hijack" Newroz with a four-day celebration in Semdinli, but the state forbade the celebrations. Once again, it looks like Osman Baydemir will be the holiday's major host, although he may be unable to attend. All public office workers have been forbidden from taking the day off, in the name of the provincial governor.

I have no doubt that a Kurdish political and ethnic message will be sent to Ankara again this year, even if the message is nothing more than a statement of existence. To characterize that message as not really celebrating anything, is an indication of Ilnur's own problems with the question of identity and sub-identity, and goes directly back to the original perception of ethnic identity being a danger to the integrity of the state.

Stop worrying, Ilnur. We'll keep an eye on things to see who does what to whom. As far as that political and ethnic message goes, you can take that to Ankara and deposit it in the bank.

3 comments:

Juanita said...

Nicely put together piece. There is a real clarity here.

Mizgîn said...

Thanks, Juanita. It's a very simple problem really.

Vladimir said...

Nice article. Don't forget Dersim.

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Participate in Nevroz celebrations and get a prize:

Since 1984, the year the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) launched its terrorist campaign, tension in eastern and southeastern Anatolia always builds up as Nevroz nears. But this time it's different in Tunceli, Vatan reported. The Democratic Society Party (DTP) had decided to hold a general celebration in Diyarbakır on March 18 and as a result DTP branches also celebrated Nevroz on March 18. However, there will be one more celebration in Tunceli on March 21, organized by the Tunceli Governor's Office. This is not the first time such a gathering has been so arranged, but there is something new this year: The Governor's Office is planning to give prizes, ranging from white goods to bikes, determined by drawings, to attendees.

The move sparked negative reactions from political parties and individuals. The Laborers' Party's (EMEP) Barış Yıldırım said this was an effort to draw people to formal celebrations and create an alternative to the Diyarbakır celebrations. The DTP Tunceli Chairman Ozgur Soylemez said such an attitude was not in line with the spirit of Nevroz.

Source: Turkish Daily News