Reality versus ideology
approaching the Kurdish question
The great shifts in the political and strategic landscape of the Middle East was merely accelerated by the Arab Spring, it had begun long before that. The much repressed Kurds who long lived in the shadows of other nations were at the forefront of this new Middle East.
The Kurdish renaissance has begun and while the many historic wrongs against the Kurds cannot be merely rewritten overnight, the Kurds are escaping from the chains of misfortune and are no longer the inferior components of the policies of states they were forcibly subjected to.
With near independence, a booming economy and new strategic and political clout, the Kurdistan Region has grown from strength to strength. With the Arabian earthquake in Syrian, Kurds have broken from decades of shackles with new autonomy. While, expectations of Kurds in Turkey are growing all the time.
Due to nationalist ideologies of respective countries, the Kurds were denied basic rights or even outright existence. The policy of nationalist idealism was an ignorant and elitist approach that such states could adopt due the political climates of yesteryears and the imperial and colonial mentality that plagued the Middle East. No matter how entrenched your nationalistic ideology, how strong your nationalist propaganda or how wide your assimilation policies may stretch, all that they merely do is mask reality. The reality is that Kurds are a historic nation with an existence that stretches back thou- sands of years; they are the fourth largest nationality in the Middle East and the largest ethnicity in the world without a state. The crimes committed against them and their misfortunes since been cruelly carved in pieces, warrants volumes rather than a single article.
However, the point is that after policies of repression and decades of denial, this does not mean that the Kurds should suffice on scraps that governments deem suitable to provide and forgo human rights such as self-determination enshrined in UN charters. The same dilemma of reality versus ideology now threatens to hit Turkey hard. Turkey after years of tough rhetoric and threats finally realised that the Kurdistan Region or the de-facto Kurdish state was not going to go away. It eventually came to terms with accepting and benefiting from this reality, rather than wasting valuable energy denying it based on historical fears and outdated nationalist ethos.
Turkey and the Kurdistan Region are now natural allies and have a mutual benefit that is growing at a rapid rate. Turkey needs a stable, secular, prosperous and friendly Kurdistan in the turbulent sectarian shifting of the Middle East and Kurdistan Region relies on Turkey for its economic growth, strategic influence and the path to Europe that it provides.
Turkey has now got a unique opportunity to strike long-term peace with the PKK and mend the broken bridges with its Kurdish community. Neither of these tasks is impossible but it needs new endeavour, trust, practical measures and acceptance of inevitabilities.
These inevitabilities entail that the Kurdish question or the PKK dilemma will not go away, but on the contrary as the Kurdish standing increases in the Middle East, so will the power and prominence of Turkey’s Kurds.
Real peace will not be achieved if Turkey believes that is sufficient to simply give Kurds rights that they should not have been deprived of in the first place. Kurds are now looking beyond basic rights and towards real concessions from the Turkish government.
A rewriting of the constitution is a must. The Kurdish status as the second ethnicity in Turkey and their respective rights must be enshrined in law. A prosperous partnership, increased employment and rebuilding projects in the south east will bring the Kurds closer not further from Ankara. If the Kurdish question can be truly resolved, then this naturally opens new doors for Turkeys EU aspirations. Turkish Kurds can enjoy EU benefits, as well as the Kurdistan Region knowing that it will have the EU on its door step. The Kurdish question and the PKK question are one and the same. Provide greater rights to Kurds, implement new economic motions in the Kurdish regions and open new doors for the Kurds and support for the PKK will dwindle. The PKK have been the champions of Kurdish rights and their flag bearers, but careful and sincere state overreaches can slowly alienate the PKK.
Kurds are also tired and fed up of fighting, destruction of their areas and the vicious cycle of been stuck between a repressive state and rebel violence.
Overreaches start from above and the latest peace initiative has new momentum and real promise. In this regard, appointments such as Muammer Güler as interior minister, with roots in the Kurdish areas, replacing the unpopular and hawkish Idris Naim Sahin, is just the right tonic.
Turkey’s parliament also passed a symbolic law on Thursday which gave right to Kurds to use their own language in court.
The “Democratic Openings” of previous years stalled as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan become invariably stuck between the past and the future, becoming pinned down by the need to appease nationalist voters and media pressure.
A similar inconsistent or stop-start approach will simply delay the process by a few more years, but Kurds and Turks have no choice but to return to the negotiating table. As the slaying of Sakine Cansiz and other female PKK members showed, there are plenty of sides that seek to destroy peace.
It’s time for Turkey to brave in its actions and break the status quo for the benefit of a new Turkey based on true brotherhood.
A tailor in Afrin, northern Syria, makes flags in the Kurdish national colours, October 10, 2012.