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May 24, 2012, Thursday


Well, you could call it progress. Now, after nearly five months of beating around the bush, we are finally told that it was “some commanders” at the headquarters of the General Staff who were responsible for the decision. One night in late December, in the muddle of “intel” gathering, the erratic order to hit a large group of unarmed Kurdish gasoline smugglers by bombs near the Uludere-Roboski hamlet at the Iraqi border -- we are invited to believe -- was purely a military one.

In terms of speed, resolve and efficiency, not much seems to have changed since Nov. 2005, for example, when the Umut bookshop in the Kurdish town of Şemdinli, Hakkari was bombed by some officers and their Kurdish helpers. The bombing killed two people in what appeared to be a provocative act of terror, and so the question marks started piling up, but the top military commanders immediately attempted to water down the incident to nothingness. The government pledged to conduct an inquiry regardless of “wherever it may lead”, but as we remember, the truth was very late in arriving.

No, not much has changed. The only difference is the actors, who now represent indifference along with large grains of arrogance. Commenting on the Uludere episode in the aftermath of the Wall Street Journal piece, Prıme Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sounded unmoved. He spoke in the same tones as the top general attempting to cover up the Şemdinli bombing did, while displaying a “difficult to distinguish Ahmet from Mehmet” [meaning anyone from anyone else] type of shrugging pattern, which is already perceived by the Kurds as a callous “so what?” attitude.

Erdoğan’s display was followed by the Interior Minister Idris Naim Şahin, who had no problem denigrating the deceased Kurds -- and their families -- as characters “playing a walk-on role” in a big game of conspiracy against the republic.

Almost all of the relatives of the 34 killed Kurds were voters of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Take it for granted that they will cease to be so. By every move similar to those described above, the AK Party is distancing itself from high expectations that it will be the chosen political force to heal the wounds. There have been increasingly sharp warning signs from AK Party figures in the region that it is being abandoned due to broken hearts and despair.

The rejection by Justice Minister, Sadullah Ergin, to a request to meet with Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies and the court verdict yesterday, sentencing BDP Deputy Leyla Zana to ten years of prison are all adding to signs of an ongoing impasse.

What is behind all this? Many would have a hard time in explaining Erdoğan’s resistance to -- once and for all -- issue a proper apology for the killings. As long as he keeps his defiance high, he -- or rather his advisors -- should know that neither his calls for a US apology for the 24 Pakistani troop deaths, nor the indictment against top Israeli officers for the Mavi Marmara massacre would at all echo internationally.

It is now more than a vicious circle. If Erdoğan, who pledged last summer to be the “prime minister of the entire nation,” has now calculated the abandonment of addressing the Kurdish issue for the sake of surfing on the nationalist vote in the next presidential election; he may have chosen a dangerous path. The more he acts with political indifference towards the issue, will mean the more he invites Kurdish voters to consolidate their support around the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and the BDP. Elements affiliated to the ancient regime -- in the army and the judiciary -- will feel compelled to set up traps on the way, against a civilized solution.

Erdoğan may have been persuaded that acquiring sophisticated military technology will be more efficient than managing talks and dialogue with the elected Kurds, he is gambling in a high stakes game for his and Turkey’s future.

He needs, in terms of consensus, some backing from the BDP in the creation of the new constitution. In the eyes of many Kurds who have stayed away from towing the PKK-line, he has given up too early, too easy, too fast.

Erdoğan’s current immobility will encourage the creation of more hard-liners in the AK Party. The disproportionately big focus on the “military solution” makes the party look like a derivative of its rivals, marked by failure. What we are witnessing at the moment is a disturbing, alienating arrhythmia in reform politics, and “errorism” -- a word I invented, for it sounds proper -- as a systemic malaise in the process for human rights and the fight against terror.

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