Kur­dish Na­tional Rights in Turkey

The recog­ni­tion of Kur­dish na­tional rights and lib­er­ties; in­clud­ing lin­guis­tic rights in pub­lic room and in the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem must be en­shrined within the Turk­ish con­sti­tu­tion.

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE - By Behrooz Sho­jai

The four par­ties rep­re­sented in the Turk­ish par­lia­ment have pre­sented their amend­ments to the con­sti­tu­tion. Apart from the pro-Kur­dish BDP that in cir­cum­lo­cu­tions men­tions the use of lo­cal lan­guages in re­gional as­sem­blies, the other par­ties, in­clud­ing the rul­ing AK-party main­tain a re­it­er­a­tive eth­no­cen­tric be­hav­ior, sim­i­lar to na­tion­al­ist-Ke­mal­ist par­ties in Turkey.

Apart from BDP all other par­ties use the “Turk­ish Na­tion” as the only sov­er­eign power in the coun­try, thus leav­ing no space for any na­tional mi­nor­ity within the con­sti­tu­tional con­fines of Turkey to ex­ist legally. This eth­no­cen­tric and de­bil­i­tat­ing def­i­ni­tion re­duces the Kur­dish na­tion to mere ten­ants, whose le­gal claims to their na­tional rights are ef­fec­tively sup­pressed due to the Turk­ish eth­nic supremacy. This hege­monic doc­trine un­der ab­so­lute guise per­pet­u­ates a sec­ond­class sta­tus for Kur­dish na­tion and rel­e­gates in­di­vid­ual Kurds to a sec­ond-class cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus; thus en­thron­ing the Turk­ish na­tion an ex­clu­sive fea­ture.

AK-party’s only fun­da­men­tal change then will be to trans­form the Turk­ish Repub­lic from a sec­u­lar na­tion to a Mus­lim na­tion in the Ot­toman man­ner. The other day, Prime Min­is­ter Er­do­gan men­tioned a re­turn to vi­layet (Ot­toman Pro­vin­cial Sys­tem), in­di­cat­ing a kind of de­cen­tral­iza­tion of the highly cen­tral­ized Turk­ish na­tion-state. But this kind of de­cen­tral­iza­tion will not in­volve any kind of the so-called “post-mod­ern” fed­er­al­ist so­lu­tion.

The ter­ri­to­ri­al­ity in such a so­lu­tion can hardly im­ply any eth­nic char­ac­ter­is­tic, in which there ex­ist no lin­guis­tic di­ver­sity or any space for ex­pres­sion of vary­ing eth­nic iden­tity. The vi­layet sys­tem in Mr. Er­do­gan’s thoughts is mere ad­min­is­tra­tive re­forms in or­der to en­hance the ef­fi­ciency of his plu­to­cratic mer­can­tilist caliphate, dis­guised in a mod­ern repub­lic’s at­tire. An­other sign of such a devel­op­ment is amend­ments in the con­sti­tu­tion to give far greater power to the pres­i­dent; a post that Prime Min­is­ter Er­do­gan him­self is in­con­testable can­di­date to.

To fa­cil­i­tate the so called peace process, the Turk­ish government has set up a com­mis­sion of the so­called “Wise Men” in­clud­ing prom­i­nent per­son­al­i­ties within press, aca­demics, art and econ­omy. Of course here the po­lit­i­cal in­cli­na­tions of the wise men are in con­cord with that of Mr. Er­do­gan and his AK­party. In a nascent meet­ing with the Com­mis­sion of the Wise Men, Mr. Er­do­gan hap­pens to ad­dress the Kur­dish Ques­tion as the “ques­tion of ter­ror” again, and when one mem­ber of the com­mis­sion ob­jects to his un­for­tu­nate dis­course, he re­sponds that he com­plies with the laws. It is sur­pris­ing that Mr. Er­do­gan be­comes such a law-abid­ing cit­i­zen when it comes to the Kur­dish ques­tion. How­ever, as he has pointed out in the past, there is no Kur­dish ques­tion; Turkey is just ex­posed to ter­ror­ism and the Kur­dish ci­ti­zens have some ques­tions re­lated to la­bor mar­ket and in­dus­trial devel­op­ment in South­east.

Turkey needs a le­gal de­vise to set­tle its Kur­dish ques­tion. But this de­vise re­quires ad­her­ence to a par­tic­u­lar mo­ral ethos. The de­ci­sion-mak­ers in Ankara should re­al­ize that a so­lu­tion of the Kur­dish ques­tion pre­sup­poses a de­cen­tral­ized no­tion of sov­er­eign and recog­ni­tion of Kur­dish na­tional rights and lib­er­ties; in­clud­ing lin­guis­tic rights in pub­lic room and in the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem.

This de­cen­tral­iza­tion means em­pow­er­ing the Kurds in a process that aims at self-government. Such a project en­tails an ar­chi­tec­tonic goal that em­bod­ies the mo­ral prin­ci­ples of jus­tice, lib­erty un­der law, cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion, and ab­so­lute equal­ity mod­er­ated by the con­cern for free­dom and com­mu­nity. But with­out po­lit­i­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive de­cen­tral­iza­tion the repub­lic can­not achieve that goal.

In Turkey, the con­di­tions nec­es­sary for the bargain of self-government to be made are es­sen­tially mil­i­tary; the fear of the Turk­ish government/state of a se­cu­rity risk in Kur­dish ar­eas and the Kur­dish de­sire to se­cede from the repub­lic’s ter­ri­tory leads the po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion to adopt some re­lief in the rig­or­ous Turk­ish eth­no­cen­tric dis­course of the coun­try. In the best-case sce­nario, per­haps even un­der­take some ad­min­is­tra­tive – not po­lit­i­cal – de­cen­tral­iz­ing ef­forts.

Mr. Er­do­gan’s half-hearted ef­forts to counter “vi­o­lence” does not orig­i­nate in a nor­ma­tive com­mit­ment to free­dom, but is rather the prod­uct of the re­al­ist per­spec­tive of a po­lit­i­cal ac­tor pur­su­ing what he be­lieves is nec­es­sary for po­lit­i­cal sur­vival of his coun­try; his Kur­dish “brethren” are es­sen­tially alien­ated from the ma­jor­ity cul­ture and eth­nic­ity; which is Turk­ish. Mr. Er­do­gan’s Kur­dish “brethren” can hardly share the same nar­ra­tive than that of his Turk­ish fel­low-ci­ti­zens. The nar­ra­tives of the his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences of Turks and Kurds in Turkey con­tra­dict the broader his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive of Turkey as a whole. Con­cocted nar­ra­tive of In­de­pen­dence War, Bat­tle of Gal­lipoli, and Is­lamic Brother­hood be­tween Kurds and Turks, which im­bued Öcalan’s Newroz speech, is the hard­selling fab­ri­ca­tion that few Kurds be­lieve in.

All po­lit­i­cal par­ties, sur­pris­ingly even BDP sug­gest Turk­ish as the of­fi­cial lan­guage of the coun­try in the new con­sti­tu­tion. I know it is al­most im­pos­si­ble to talk about Kur­dish as an of­fi­cial lan­guage in Turkey; a sta­tus that Kurds en­joy in Iraq. But this po­lit­i­cal im­pos­si­bil­ity is not the work of the Kurds; it is rather the project of those who aimed at a Turk­ish na­tion build­ing in Ana­to­lia that has been cra­dle of mul­ti­lin­gual­ism and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. Thus, the re­spon­si­bil­ity to cor­rect this in­jus­tice does not lie on the shoul­der of Kurds or their politi­cians; rather it is the duty of the Turk­ish de­ci­sion-mak­ers to con­vince their own de­luded pop­u­la­tion.

Turkey has, as a mat­ter of fact, two ques­tions, the Kur­dish and the very del­i­cate Turk­ish one. If AK-party were really se­ri­ous about a peace­ful and fair so­lu­tion of the Kur­dish ques­tion, its first task would be to process the Turk­ish pop­u­la­tion. The Kurds are men­tally se­ced­ing from the repub­lic; in or­der to fore­stall a phys­i­cal se­ces­sion and the breakup of the Turk­ish state, the cen­tral po­lit­i­cal elites – in­clud­ing state and government – must ini­ti­ate new ac­com­mo­da­tions and new in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing fed­eral in­sti­tu­tions and ap­proaches. At the same time, the re­gional po­lit­i­cal elites rep­re­sent­ing the Kur­dish na­tional mi­nor­ity must ob­tain enough power, priv­i­lege and recog­ni­tion within the ex­ist­ing po­lit­i­cal sys­tem to sat­isfy with pur­su­ing a more grad­u­al­ist project of greater au­ton­omy and self­de­ter­mi­na­tion rather than im­me­di­ate in­de­pen­dence that the av­er­age Kurd as­pires and dreams of.

Turkey is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the rise of re­gion­ally based na­tion­al­ist po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the de­cline of ide­o­log­i­cally ori­ented pan na­tional po­lit­i­cal par­ties such as the Ke­mal­ist Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party (CHP). AK­party has been able to uti­lize the vac­uum that was left by Ke­mal­ist par­ties in north­ern Kur­dis­tan. Mr. Er­do­gan gen­er­ally boasts that his AK-party has the ma­jor­ity of the votes from the Kur­dish prov­inces. But the re­li­gious Kurds are be­ing frus­trated by AK­party’s Turk­ish-Is­lamist dis­course and they may even­tu­ally join lib­eral and left­ist Kur­dish na­tion­al­ist in the North. In such a case a new vi­cious cir­cle of vi­o­lence – this time be­tween the two main eth­nic groups of Turkey – can oc­cur with tremen­dous losses for both sides.

A demo­cratic Turkey should con­stantly strug­gle to con­struct al­ter­na­tives to se­ces­sion, par­ti­tion and vi­o­lence. In do­ing so, Turkey has to un­dergo de­vo­lu­tion and de­cen­tral­iza­tion. Con­se­quently it must re­flect a high de­gree of for­mal and in­for­mal sym­me­try while pro­tect­ing and vig­or­ously pro­mot­ing Kur­dish lan­guage rights in­clud­ing com­pul­sory Kur­dish lan­guage ed­u­ca­tion in Kur­dish ter­ri­to­ries.

In an op­ti­mal case, Turkey would have two of­fi­cial lan­guages; Turk­ish and Kur­dish and thus be­come a bilin­gual state like Bel­gium or Iraq, how­ever the min­i­mum should be that the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion of Turkey has to be bilin­gual with Kur­dish as the main ad­min­is­tra­tive and ed­u­ca­tional lan­guage. All this, of course, has to be stip­u­lated in the con­sti­tu­tion of the coun­try and with­out con­sti­tu­tional en­trench­ment of na­tional mi­nor­ity rights Turkey has a long way to a full-fledged democ­racy.

The pres­i­dent; a post that Prime Min­is­ter Er­do­gan him­self is in­con­testable can­di­date to.

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