In the new Turkey, how happy is the one who says “I am a Turk or a Kurd”

The Kurdish Globe - - EDITORIAL - Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

The Im­rali peace process in Turkey has cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment, sup­port base and sense of ex­pectancy that has never been seen be­fore. There is great hope that the new bridge build­ing ini­tia­tive will lead to the ul­ti­mate quest of long-term peace, lay­ing down of arms and a new chap­ter in the his­tory of the Turk­ish repub­lic.

Pub­lic opin­ion both within Turk­ish and Kur­dish cir­cles in­di­cate that peo­ple are fed up with decades of war and suf­fer­ing and yearn for peace. Even the staunch­est Turk­ish na­tion­al­ist has come to terms with the lim­its of mil­i­tary power. How many bil­lions of dol­lars of lost ex­pen­di­ture and sheer re­sources been con­sumed by one of the largest armies in NATO, yet al­most 3 decades on and the loss of thou­sands of lives of later, the cyclic bat­tle has only served to deepen the di­vide and in­flame ten­sions in Turkey.

The open keen­ness of the AKP government and of­fi­cial sup­port for talks with im­pris­oned PKK leader, Ab­dul­lah Ocalan, long-time pub­lic en­emy num­ber one and now seem­ingly the key fa­cil­i­ta­tor to peace, speaks vol­umes about chang­ing sen­ti­ment.

The lack of a gen­uine de­sire for talks, ab­sence of real con­ces­sions and com­mon mis­trust have in the past quickly clouded any prospects of real peace. In­deed only sin­cere and bold ef­forts will re­alise a new dawn.

In a sec­ond visit by a Pro-Kur­dish Peace and Democ­racy Party (BDP) del­e­ga­tion since the turn of the year, deputies Sırrı Süreyya Ön­der, Pervin Bul­dan and Al­tan Tan vis­ited Ocalan in the is­land prison of Im­rali to dis­cuss and out­line the next steps in the peace process.

Although, the road-map ru­moured to have been agreed be­tween Ocalan and Hakan Fi­dan, the head of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Or­ga­ni­za­tion (MİT), was not re­vealed or the spe­cific de­tails of the del­e­ga­tions meet­ing with Ocalan was not known, ac­cord­ing to the three BDP mem­bers, Ocalan had re­ferred to the new peace process as a his­toric step and em­pha­sised on all sides to show "care and sen­si­tiv­ity."

There were also indi­ca­tions from the BDP del­e­ga­tion’s state­ment that Ocalan and the PKK were ready to re­lease cap­tives, likely in ex­change for re­lease of KCK pris­on­ers, as part of the ini­tial steps.

The road-map and next steps are likely to be pub­li­cised shortly by both sides, although the sense of cau­tion is un­der­stand­able. Cur­rent hopes and ex­pec­ta­tions have to be put into per­spec­tive. It has taken years and much suf­fer­ing to even reach this junc­ture, both sides will ma­neu­verer care­fully, but what is clear is that if the chance for peace is missed this time around, Turkey may re­gret it for many years to come.

The whole un­nec­es­sary and largely ir­rel­e­vant ar­gu­ment over which BDP mem­bers would visit Ocalan in the lat­est round of talks shows the sen­si­tiv­ity and wari­ness of the Turk­ish government. It wants to be seen to have the up­per-hand in this process and that it is call­ing the shots. The AKP government as ever have the dif­fi­cult job of ap­peas­ing all sec­tions of so­ci­ety, es­pe­cially na­tion­al­ists hawks, who have of­ten put a span­ner in the works.

The Turk­ish government must also ex­pect some re­spon­si­bil­ity for the lack of Kur­dish in­ter­locu­tors on the ground. The PKK has con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate the Kur­dish land­scape and Ocalan, in spite of his vir­tual iso­la­tion for 14 years, still holds the largest sway and rev­er­ence amongst the Kurds. BDP politi­cians are the very peo­ple voted by Turk­ish ci­ti­zens in a le­gal and trans­par­ent way and who have seats in the Turk­ish par­lia­ment, and yet the BDP has been blighted by both the gov­ern­ments’ ten­dency to un­der­mine their in­flu­ence and PKK’s con­tin­u­ing dom­i­nance of Kur­dish hearts and minds. The 10% par­lia­men­tary thresh­old has hardly helped the Kur­dish po­lit­i­cal and demo­cratic move­ment.

The Kur­dish rebels are will­ing to ini­ti­ate a cease­fire and with­draw be­yond the Turk­ish bor­ders, af­ter all “cease­fires”, al­beit uni­lat­eral ones are not new. But it is whether the rebels can be ad­e­quately ap­peased. Are rebels just go­ing to sim­ply lay down their arms af­ter decades of bat­tle and thou­sands of sac­ri­fices? Of course, as part of any pre­con­di­tion, Turkey must take bold and his­toric steps.

There is no bet­ter place to start then the very po­lit­i­cal and so­cial blue­print of the coun­try, its con­sti­tu­tion. A new con­sti­tu­tion that recog­nises the Kurds and en­shrines their rights, in­clud­ing a level of au­ton­omy, is of para­mount im­por­tance. The new Turkey must em­brace a part­ner­ship be­tween Kurds and Turks, Turkey will al­ways com­prise of two com­po­nents but who live, work and pros­per to­gether hand-in-hand and sideby-side. This new Turkey must be a bi-na­tional state based on equal­ity and brother­hood.

Pub­lic sur­veys are im­por­tant gauge of government per­for­mance and pub­lic opin­ion but any de­ci­sion on the Im­rali process can­not and will not sat­isfy all par­ties. Some­times politi­cians must make de­ci­sions not to just ap­pease the present con­stituents but to also safe­guard the fu­ture well­be­ing of a na­tion.

The will and de­sire of the Kurds and Turks must not be bro­ken by mi­nori­ties who will con­tinue to in­sist on vi­o­lent means of achiev­ing their goals or by those who hold onto im­pe­ri­al­is­tic ideals. There are many par­ties within Turkey and the sur­round­ing re­gion who seek to de­rail peace.

Sur­veys on whether Kurds and Turks can live to­gether de­tract from the big­ger pic­ture, Kurds and Turks have lived to­gether, largely peace­fully, for hun­dreds of years.

The time for vi­o­lence and armed re­bel­lions is cer­tainly over but so is the time for out-dated ethos and a so­ci­ety based on in­equal­ity. In the new Turkey, how happy is the one who says I am a Turk or a Kurd.

Sup­port­ers raise pho­tos of the de­tained PKK leader Ab­dulla Ocalan and the PKK flag dur­ing a demon­sta­tion on the oc­cas­sion of the as­sas­i­na­tion of three fe­male Kur­dish ac­tivists in Paris, France early last month.

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