"Actually, Cemil Çiçek's approach, in a way, is Turkey's century-long general approach. The hysterical, assimilationist, exclusionist, vengeful, denialist policy reveals itself through Cemil Çiçek."
~ Mehmet Nuri Guneş, DTP Mayor, Iğdır.
~ Mehmet Nuri Guneş, DTP Mayor, Iğdır.
In the 29 March Turkish local elections, DTP took the city of Iğdır in far eastern Turkey, which caused deputy prime minister Cemil Çiçek to talk the usual übernationalist trash about border security. After all, can't have those Kurds and Armenians getting together, don't you know?
On Wednesday, I posted a link to an article in which a political scientist took a very different view of the DTP victory in Iğdır from that of Chicken Little Çiçek. In her article, Bilgin Ayata wrote:
. . . [T]he possibility of reopening the [Turkish-Armenian] border gained a different dimension with the recent regional elections on March 29, in which the Pro-Kurdish Party DTP firmly established itself as the key regional party in the Kurdish-populated areas in southeast Turkey, and took over the municipality of Igdir that had been governed by the ultra-nationalist party MHP for the past decade. [ . . . ] The political atmosphere there until recently had been extremely nationalistic and hostile toward its Armenian neighbor . . . In light of this political atmosphere, it will certainly not be easy for the new mayor Mehmet Nuri Gunes of the DTP to make a new beginning in the region. However, irrespective of whether or not the border reopens, the DTP’s victory in Igdir is a positive and hopeful development for better neighbor relations.
Now we can hear from Mehmet Nuri Guneş himself, courtesy of Fırat News Agency (http://www.firatnews.com/index.php?rupel=nuce&nuceID=6956):
"We Ended 86 Years of Exclusive Management in Iğdır"
Iğdır is a province where DTP won the municipality for the very first time and a place where different identities and cultures such as Kurds, Azeris, Terekeme, etc., live together. It became a province that grabbed attention by government spokesman Cemil Çiçek's statement about DTP that reached to the Armenian border by winning Igdir and "this is a situation that we should think about." So we, too, asked DTP Igdir Mayor Mehmet Nuri Güneş the importance of Iğdır for the state and DTP, Çiçek's statement, Turkish-Armenian relations, and the municipality's prioritized projects.
ANF: After the election, the government spokesman, Cemil Çiçek, referring to DTP's win in Iğdır, said "they reached Armenia". What did Cemil Çiçek mean?
MNG: Actually, Cemil Çiçek's approach, in a way, is Turkey's century-long general approach. The hysterical, assimilationist, exclusionist, vengeful, denialist policy reveals itself through Cemil Çiçek. Here rejection is the case. It is the rejection of the changing hand of a racist management that contradicts Iğdır's 86-year-old multi-identity structure.
ANF: What makes Iğdır so important?
MNG: Since Iğdır is on the crossroad of three countries, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran, it was a place where Newroz was celebrated internationally. It is the gate that opens to Turkic republics and, at the same time, it is important in terms of being the center of the reality that we know as the Armenian slaughter. In one way, Iğdır resembles Kerkuk with its multiple identity structure. For this reason, it is an example where we can implement our policies, in such a center. Leaving the management of DTP after 86 years is seen by them as a defeat. However, this is a happy situation for those who miss a democratic management.
ANF: Is the tension that was created right after DTP won the election still on the rise?
MNG: It's still continuing, however for the people it's slowly easing. Historically Iğdır is a place where clashes such as Right-Left, Kurdish-Azeri, occurred. The tension was so much that Azeri TV, which had an interview with me, asked, "How many families migrated from Iğdır?" However as soon as we took charge and paid 7-months' worth of salaries, and siad that we do not have any problem with our personnel caused relief.
ANF: Who creates the tension, and why?
MNG: The MHP people and the AKP people with an MHP identity . . . We are not going to allow the provocations that they want to create. The tension is easing anyway.
ANF: What is the attitude of the local press?
MNG: The local press is leaving its provocative attitude and is starting to accept the situation. They show our statements the way that they are [without any distortion]. A change in their manner started towards acceptance when they saw our policies, such as not laying off any personnel from the municipality. starting to pay the salaries, and such.
No Judgement Yet
ANF: The old mayor has claims, such as you have received a four-and-a-half year conviction from the flag case, thus you cannot be sworn in [as mayor]. What do you say about this?
MNG: Tension occured after the old MHP mayor--who has been in touch with Cemil Çiçek for years--left his own party and went to AKP. The election defeat brought some claims related to me. It is obvious that these people neither trust the Turkish judiciary nor the Higher Election Board [YSK]. Unfortunately, whenever the issue is the Kurdish question, sometimes even the law is put on the shelf. However, regarding these issues, I have no conviction yet. Plus, while the four-and-a-half year punishment was in the process at the Supreme Court of Appeals, it was taken to appeal with a new law without any judgement, and so far there is no conviction. These claims are the appearance of the concept of doing everything in order to create tension.
ANF: The 86-year exclusive management is leaving its place to a democratic management for the very first time, you said. With DTP, what will change?
MNG: In terms of municipality services, city council, municipality council, and administrative bodies, will find life in three main points, such as openness, transparency, and organization. We will find solutions to Iğdır's problems together with the people; we'll produce together and we'll implement together. In addition to the infrastructure problems, we have a project called ORYAP--Organic Life Project. We will bring solidarity among people while installing a cooperative trading system. Through reading houses and, also, social complexes, we will provide citizens of Iğdır, whether Kurdish or Azeri, to be partners in social activities.
ANF: DTP has ten years' experience in local administration, however in Iğdır it is the very first time, locally, that it came into administration. Do you think it is a disadvantage for you?
MNG: Of course there is a lack of experience, however managing people, managing economic sources is related to vision and acquired culture. When you take scientific, modern, communalist approaches you will not have any problem, especially when you have ten years of experience. Besides, we will not stop there. In addition to the sources that we got from İller Bank, we will start a projection study with a close relation to the EU. For this reason, as soon as we get the municipality completely, we will found a project department.
ANF: What will be your prioritized projects?
MNG: There is a frame that can be called "under the road" and "above the road". "Above the road" has almost solved all it's problems, whereas "under the road", where mainly Kurds live, [conditions] in every aspect is in between village and city conditions. Firstly we will start with this infrastructure problem. Our primary goal will be a plan for Igdir's future population of 100,000 to 150,000 that will primarily fall under construction or field production [agricultural]. We will have studies for marketing organic agricultural produce, a cooperative system for production that includes the municipality.
ANF: You have pointed out the difference of Iğdır from the other cities, in terms of it's multicultural and multi-identity structure. For that reason, you made an analogy with Kerkuk. In order to protect Igdir's multi-identity structure and keep the differences at peace, what will you do?
MNG: I have mentioned about social development and cohesion projects, there are reading houses here. We will open technical schools. We will organize social and cultural activities. Again, we will provide cooperatives. To this day there have been thick barriers set between the two peoples. While they are together in social relations, whatever the reason, in elections, one-sided racism is on the rise. Even the clothes that I wore for Newroz became an issue for debate. There was propaganda of "The Kurds will massacre us, make us migrate." The more they see our municipality's implementations, the more they will be comfortable; within two years everything will click into place. The other day there was an election in the Irrigation Union. They [the provocateurs] tried to create tension. Our people are organized, they know their responsibilities, and we will not allow this.
There Isn't Any Problem Among the People
ANF: Recently there is a diplomatic closeness between Turkey and Armenia. How do you see this?
MNG: Since this is an inter-state relationship issue, it will be better to be evaluated by the parties' administrations rather than by mayors. However, from the culture and modern values that I acquired from my party that I am loyal to, I don't think an approach based on fights, conflicts, and vengeance for the past is true. It is an issue of the US, which is the unipolar power, that can formalize the way that it wants and whenever it wants to spread it over time. Our wish is that people decide to do this with their free conscience. The important thing is the establishment of a dialog with an approach that is without interest. There isn't any problem among the people. In the past, Iğdır's Chamber of Commerce chairman attempted a dialog, people supported him but the ones in power intervened and discharged him through an emergency congress.
ANF: What kind of contribution will the opening of the border have for Iğdır?
MNG: There are two possibilities here. By opening the borders there won't be any need for the approaches that worsens enmity, thus there will be a reduction in military expenditure. In terms of trade, it will become lively, commercial and social dialog will improve among the peoples. However there is a worry among both the people and businessmen that Armenians will not have any trade with some certain distinctive Azeris. For this reason, some people who believe they will not acquire enough interest, feed this worry.
Go, Mehmet, go!