Posted by: hevallo | September 5, 2010

>Dogu Ergil: Towards the beginning of the end!

>There is vivid public debate on the issue of whether it is proper and patriotic to contact Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) affiliates to secure a negotiated settlement to the quarter-century-long internal strife that has taken so many lives and valuable resources from Turkey.  Inability to solve the so called “Kurdish problem” has had corrosive effects on society
Indeed, cleavages in the society became so serious that Turkey began to lose its internal solidarity, splitting up the nation into irreconcilable political and cultural communities. The burning need to solve the problem forced the incumbent government to further improve democratic standards and to adopt a more inclusive agenda for the Kurds. However, this had to be done by reducing the role of the armed forces (and accompanying security mentality) in Turkish politics and detaching the Kurdish question from merely being a security matter.

Lack of a “national” (or bipartisan) policy is a great handicap when designing a comprehensive peace and reconciliation policy. In the absence of such a roadmap, the government misses landmarks such as a) allowing the armed PKK to transform itself into a political organization; b) talking to the representatives of the organization to establish conditions for laying down arms and demobilization; and c) preparing the people psychologically to deal and reconcile with an “enemy” that has been vilified and demonized for so many decades by the media and all state agencies. To this end, the government started developing alliances in both the political realm and in the realms of media and academia. These efforts have burgeoned recently but are insufficiently supported by the opposition and state agencies that still cling to the Turkish ethnic character of the state and the nation rather than constitutional citizenship that affords equality to all.

The public awakening to the fact that Turkish nationalism (based on ethnic superiority and submission of all others within and the dislike of foreigners) is the source of cleavages, and instability is a traumatic new experience for Turks. Needless to say, the trauma born out of the failure of the old methods of nation building and public administration brings with it a paranoia of change and diversity – both challenges which the reformers face.

Turkish citizens have reached a point where they see more clearly what mistakes have been made and how the problem has been fabricated. There is an opportunity to rectify these mistakes. The PKK has declared a unilateral cease-fire for the duration of Ramadan (August and September) and made it known that it is ready to lay down its arms if the following conditions are met: 1) Security forces should cease fire as well; 2) All Kurdish political prisoners including some mayors who had been arbitrarily arrested in the recent past on charges of being accessories to the PKK must be released; 3) Abdullah Öcalan must be involved in the peace negotiations to start; 4) All of the local names of villages, towns and geographical locations that were changed from Kurdish must be reinstated; 5) The election threshold, which currently stands at a high 10 percent, must be dropped meaningfully to allow Kurdish representation in Parliament; and 6) Decentralization or autonomy of local administrations (they call this “democratic autonomy”) must be accepted or promised to be realized in due time.

All of these issues have been matters of public debate recently. Needless to say this is a major breakthrough in Turkish political discourse, for such issues were once deemed to be dangerous and subversive. However, the forces that made them taboo are now on the decline and their methods of dealing with the burning problems of the country have proven to be ineffective and too costly for the sustainability and even existence of the regime.

Then what is it that still delays a solution? In fact an outside observer may liken the existing situation to a tragedy that is still unfolding. The people are watching it in agony, but no one dares to stop the play that no longer has a director. Well, it is lack of consensus among public opinion makers and community or political leaders to reach a common understanding on the definition of the problem and possible ways to solve it. However, the magnitude of common loss and the feeling that if left to warriors the conflict may drag on for decades have begun to change public opinion. More people have begun to advocate for alternative ways other than what is officially offered. This opens up a ground where conflicting parties may find the opportunity to participate and become partners in the solution. Is this the light we have been expecting at the end of the tunnel?

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