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July 27, 2011, Wednesday

History should not be allowed to repeat itself

Turkish opposition parties in Parliament have once again failed to display a determined stance against renewed violence between security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), tried to excuse the alleged grave mistakes made by security forces during the July 14 clash between security forces and PKK militants in the Silvan district of Kurdish-dominated Diyarbakır province that resulted the deaths of 13 soldiers and seven PKK terrorists.

Kılıçdaroğlu claimed that the Silvan incident happened because the military is demoralized. He was referring to the ongoing trials of over 200 retired and active duty officers, including high-ranking generals, who are in jail on charges of plotting an armed overthrow of the government. This is a bizarre statement, considering the long-time allegations of security leaks on the part of security forces. He should have encouraged the launching of a government investigation into the circumstances surrounding the PKK attack and whether the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) made any mistakes in that incident. More importantly, the CHP, as the main opposition party, should help devise policies to end military involvement in internal security matters.

Not surprisingly, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), defended the military’s involvement in the internal security issue of fighting terrorism, even using conscripts while claiming that specially trained police units can not succeed in counterterrorism. He said this as though the TSK has succeeded in its fight against the PKK, which has been going on since 1983.

The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), for its part, has so far failed to contribute to any peace efforts to solve the Kurdish question. Instead, it has been pursuing policies that have encouraged violence. It has thus far been unable to act like a real political party. Instead, it has been taking orders from Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK. If the BDP wants to be an authentic political party, it has to produce policies that will contribute to the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question. Thirty independent deputies from the BDP are boycotting Parliament by not taking part in the oath taking ceremony.

The Democratic Society Congress’s (DTK) recent declaration of democratic autonomy during an extraordinary congress of 850 delegates in Diyarbakır is a typical example of the BDP’s making itself part of the problem of creating a political problem in the region. The BDP should ask itself why it was able to garner only around 1.7 million votes, when an estimated 20 million Kurds participated in the June 12 general elections, and whether it will earn credibility by boycotting Parliament.

Mehdi Eker, food and agriculture minister of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), made a surprising move by suggesting that democratic autonomy can be discussed in Parliament. But not all AK Party deputies are as open-minded and liberal as Eker is. Beşir Atalay, former interior minister and the current deputy prime minister, stated yesterday his party believes in neither Kurdish autonomy nor those who declared autonomy. His remarks may be true. But it is important to take an open-minded approach to all ideas that do not incite violence. Perhaps Kurdish autonomy is not a viable option, but Eker’s suggestion hints at the possibility of a liberal approach, even though he differs with another minister from his party.

The AK Party, represented by 326 deputies in the 550-seat Parliament, is the only political party currently in power that has initiated democratic reforms. But from time to time it falls into traps set up by nationalists or elements active in the deep state that seek to maintain the status quo. There are a certain number of AK Party deputies as well who act with nationalistic instincts to erect barriers before reforms that the party would like to initiate. The latest example of this trend is the alleged use of intimidation to keep the party from making changes to laws that would end the TSK’s monopoly on the appointment of generals.

Ahmet Altan, editor-in-chief of Taraf, issued a warning in his column on Wednesday that should be taken into consideration. “What I am seeing is that the Kurdish question has moved out of the scope of politics; I am deeply afraid of the outcome. The war will escalate. Neither the government nor the PKK will back down.”

The ruling and opposition parties should quickly act together before they are defeated again by illegal elements within the deep state and the PKK. They should not allow history to repeat itself.

Previous articles of the columnist