By Dr Aland Mizell:
Let me be clear. I am for peace, and I support any step toward the peace process, because innocent people are payy), the PKK (Kuing the price. Therefore, I salute the BDP (Kurdish Peace Democratic Partrdistan Workers Party), and even the Turkish government for their courage in trying to end violence and bloodshed, but let’s be honest and not delude ourselves.
Based on what we have seen and what has been done in the past, this recent fanfare is an effort to discredit the BDP and to encourage division between the Kurdish parties or groups such as the BDP, the PKK, the KCK (Union of Communities in Kurdistan), and the new Kurdish religious party, the Huda-Par Party. Further, it is an attempt to reduce the number of Kurdish people who are loyal to Oçalan, so that Ocalan does not represent all the Kurds. This is just another tactical game by the Turkish government to block support for the PKK and for the PYD (Democratic Union Party) not to have influence in a post-Assad regime. Additionally, Turkey is trying to figure out who is behind the Kurdish movement and who has influence, in order to go after them internationally and domestically. Turkey is not sincere in regard to having peace with the PKK, and, therefore, the peace process will not last long.
Why do Gulenists and the AKP party support the peace process? It is important to look at their reason for seemingly doing so. They support the peace process not because they really believe that the basic rights of Kurdish people cannot be subject to or approved by the Turkish masses. They support it because they want Turkey to be the hegemonic power in the Middle East and dominate as the superpower; that’s why the Prime Minister is supporting peace and that’s why Glen and his followers are supporting the process. They fail to understand that Kurdish rights are not charity and that the basic rights of the Kurds, like their rights, are inalienable and non-negotiable.
While addressing his party’s parliamentary group last week, the Prime Minister said, “Be assured that we have not and will not do anything that would impart disgrace for our martyrs or bring shame to our nations.” Gülen used the same tone, but perhaps not the exact words, when he supported the peace process. He argued that the government should talk to the PKK without compromising the Turkish national integrity and honor.
Therefore, Turkish nationalism has officially and religiously been publically celebrated, while Kurdish nationalism is associated with factions like the PKK, the KCK, and terrorism, with the consequence of advocates of these positions ending up in jail. If the government is sincere about peace, it should use the language of peace, avoiding words like “terror.” The Turks have written the history, explained God, educated the people, and treated Kurds as subjects, not as human beings. Turks have told Kurds what to watch, what to listen to, whom to worship, whom to vote for, and what is best for them, never allowing Kurds to chose what they want or what they think is best for themselves.
As a result, many Kurds have been ashamed to consider themselves Kurds, especially for the sake of getting a job or being accepted by Turkish society. They never publically say they are Kurds. True, the former Turkish president Ozal was a Kurd, even an all time famous journalist Mehmet Ali Brand was a Kurd, and famous singers like Ibrahim Tatlises, Hulya Avsar, Ceylan, and so many others were Kurds, but the key for them to be famous is not to say publically, “I am a Kurd,” for those who publically admitted their identity have been demonized, criminalized, and exiled to Europe, like Ahmet Kaya and Shiwan Perwer.
But now history is on the side of the Kurds; and perhaps justice is on the side of the Kurds. The question remains, are Kurds ready to write their own history? Did the Kurds learn a lesson from their history or will history repeat itself? Are Kurds ready to take this advantage of the moment to be part of it or will they give up for transitory power or fame? The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has a very important role in terms of the internationalized Kurdish cause. Will all Kurds be united as one against their oppressor putting aside religion, tribe, language, and politics of the past or will they fight one another again?
For example, the new political party, Huda-Par, has emerged in southeast Turkey espousing Kurdish Islamic ideologies and threatening to take votes away from the BDP and to reduce its power. The BDP is now the main Kurdish party that has defended the rights of Kurds in a democratic way for a long time despite the Turkish regime’s oppression and incarceration of opponents. In spite of all, the BDP still stood up and refused to compromise Kurdish rights. If you look at the Prime Minister’s campaign and the Gulenists’ media campaign against the BDP, they posit that the BDP is not Muslim and accuse the members of being a cult religion. Now Erdogan and Gülen are helping to promote the new Islamic party to organize freely, develop and spread in the Southeast and even in western Turkey. The Turkish government and Gulenists will do anything to advance the party’s work. Their expectation is that the PKK, the BDP, and the Huda – Party will fight against one another.
The Kemalist governments’ long restraint on religion in public life is now gone; in its place, the new Gülen Turkish Muslim missionaries’ effect on political discourse reflects a new chapter in Turkish and Kurdish politics. They put all the blame for the bad treatment of Turkey’s Kurds on the secular Turkish government and try to ignore their own cooperation with the military or their silence against the Turkish regime. As early as 2005, Prime Minister Erdogan said that, “more democracy, not more repression, is the answer to the Kurds’ long-running grievances,” admitting that Turkey needs “to face up to its past.” Have Turkey, Erdogan, Gülen, and other groups faced up to the Kurdish reality yet? How many Turkish generals, police, soldiers, or civilians are in prison because of the crimes they committed against the Kurds in Southeastern Turkey? How many soldiers or police are in jail because they burned Kurdish villages or even killed children? But still the Islamic government is using the same language about Turkish honor or Turkish people, never acknowledging the need for Kurdish honor and Kurdish justice.
Playing the Kurdish card to pacify the PKK is not new for regional players. We will see in a couple of weeks that the Gulenist media and the AKP-owned media will be busy discussing how effective Oçalan is. The BDP Kurdish political movement will go through a tough test during this short period asking, “How effective is Oçalan? Is he still in charge of the PKK and does the PKK still listen to him? How much influence does he have on the BDP?” For someone who has been in prison for almost fourteen years and not allowed to have access to the outside world except for his lawyer, (although sometimes even his lawyer could not meet with him) and even then under the Turkish government’s watch, Ocalan is not a free man. In well over a decade since his incarceration, the globe has undergone true changes especially in the Middle East. No longer is Yasser Arafat in charge of Palestinian, the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia have been ousted by uprisings, and Syria is on the brink of upheaval. Also, the Gulenists and AKP have dethroned the Turkish military.
Some looming questions will be answered soon. If the Kurdish parties don’t listen to Oçalan, what will happen? If they do listen to Oçalan, what will happen? Does the fate of more than twenty million Kurds living in Turkey depend on one man who has been in jail for more than fourteen years? Turkey has never sincerely acknowledged the existence of Kurdish problems or accepted that the Kurds have problems in Turkey: Turkey always sees Kurdish issues as an economic problem or a security problem. To delegitimize the Kurdish movement, the government has called it a terrorist problem. If Turkey does not recognize Kurdish problems, how can Turkey find the solution for them? How can a peace process push through? Since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, Kurds have resisted Turkey’s biased, cruel, and unjust policies toward the Kurds who are asking for social, political and economical freedom. Instead of gaining freedom, as a result of this request, thousands of Kurds have been imprisoned, tortured, kidnapped, or killed. The Turkish government realizes that it cannot take away such God-given rights, especially with the Arab Spring, the Kurds in Iraq having their autonomous region, a new global order emerging, America losing its power in the Middle East, and now the war in Syria bringing chaos.
The Kurds remain the biggest obstacle especially in regard to Gülen’s dream to bring back the Ottoman Empire to the Middle East. First, if the Kurds in Syria get their autonomous region like in Iraq, it might jeopardize the dream of the reemergence of the Ottoman Empire because the regional players or international powers will use the Kurds to weaken Turkish domestic politics. The second reason for Turkey’s paranoid about the Kurds being united is because the Kurds control the major resources of oil and water in the Middle East. That is why Turkey is so involved in Syria’s civil war. Turkey knows Syria is weak and split among its factions thereby giving the Kurds a critical role just like the Kurds in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Disunity among the Arabs and unity between the PKK and the PYD worry Turkey, so this new PYD factor has forced Turkey to have a peace process with the PKK for a short period of time. Turkey does not want Syria to become like Iraq, so that the Kurds in Syria become autonomous. Therefore, both the Assad regime and the Turkish regime have tried to entreat the Kurds to join their side. Turkey has also wanted to have a division between the PKK and its leadership because those who support the PKK have a strong loyalty to Oçalan and see him as an extraordinary person. Turkey’s strategy is to reduce the Kurds’ trust in him.
It is true that the Turkish government and the PKK are tired of war, but if the PKK wants to win this, it must focus on getting rid of the terrorist label and on being a legitimate Kurdish resistance group in the international community’s view. The Turkish government cannot afford to have a war with the PKK especially since, as we all know, Turkey has problems with Iran, Iraq. Syria, and Israel; thus, if Turkey continues to have war with the PKK, Turkey will lose the battle.
In conclusion, the Turkish government has received insurance from the West and the United States by their suppressing the Syrian Kurds. The Turks’ main concern is not about Assad’s being undemocratic, his being a dictator, or his oppressing the citizens, but the main concern for Turkey is to eliminate the Kurdish people there. That is why I do not believe Turkey sincerely wants to have peace with the PKK or the Kurds; instead, Turkey wants to define Kurdish policy in the Middle East. Regarding Syria, Turkey says that Kurdish problems should be solved within the framework of Syria’s territorial integrity and that the rights of Kurds should be guaranteed. This approach was Turkey’s slogan for the Kurds in Iraq under the Saddam regime, but when Saddam was gone and the Kurds got their autonomous region, Turkey did not have any other choice but seemingly to cooperate with the Kurds. It worked with the Kurds to create a division between the Iraqi central government and the KRG government, and now Turkey does not recognize the Iraqi central government, instead directly dealing with the Kurdish Autonomous Region. It sound like history’s divide and conquer rule; but it is an odd application, isn’t it? We all know that the road to peace is not easy, but as long as the peace partners are really committed to peace, then it can be achieved. The Kurdish public does not know much about the peace process and what is going on because everything is being negotiated in secret. We all know peace without the PKK will not happen, but peace with only Oçalan will never be sufficient either. The Kurdish peace process should not just deal with only one man who has spent more than fourteen years in jail; it should deal with the BDP, the democratically elected representatives. The Turkish government, if it is sincere about peace, should use the language of peace avoiding the word “ terror,” because associating the Kurdish cause and rights with terror delegitimizes it. The Kurdish problem is not a terror problem; it is a problem of human dignity, a problem of not being considered equal to Turks, unless Kurds present themselves as Turks. The new Turkish Constitution and the state should recognize Kurds as a political entity and recognize Kurds as a nation not as mountain Turks. The lack of recognition of the Kurds and, therefore, their existence has not been established within the Turkish public. The Kurds’ entry into the public sphere and politics, therefore, may have had to come via PKK violence. Now, however, the Turkish government and Gulenists should be honest about the peace process, beginning with acceptance of Kurdish social, political, and economical problems. Neither Gulenism nor Ottomanism can be the solution for these problems. Only justice is the solution to the Kurdish problem.
Dr. Aland Mizell is with the University of Mindanao School of Social Science, President of the MCI and a regular contributor to The Kurdistan Tribune, Kurdishaspect.com, Mindanao Times and Kurdish Media.You may email the author at:firstname.lastname@example.org