Kurds also rightly seek constitutional changes that will make them equal to the Turkish citizens of Turkey. The current Constitution, authored by the military junta in 1982 after the 1980 military coup, is ideological and authoritarian. This is despite the fact that there have been many amendments made to it since then. The Constitution is still an impediment to both greater democratization and the resolution of the Kurdish question. It alienates the Kurds in particular because of its overt characterization of citizens as being solely members of the Turkish nation.
As a parliamentary commission is currently writing a brand new civilian constitution there are great hopes among Kurds that the new charter will be formulated, among other things, in a way that will ensure that Kurds are full-fledged citizens of Turkey. If this and other legal hurdles concerning Kurdish rights are overcome, whether they will still press for more rights such as a federation and whether the armed uprising will continue are among the major questions that, for example, leading members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) have been asking.
We may hear more such inquiries coming from the CHP as it has recently come up, in a surprise move, with a roadmap to contribute to a solution to both the Kurdish and the terrorism problems.
I heard such inquiries being made of CHP deputies by journalists during the deputies’ recent visits to various cities for rallies that I covered. Together with some journalists, I went with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of the CHP, on his party bus last Saturday, which took us to the Black Sea town of Zonguldak, a major mining center. The main theme of Kılıçdaroğlu’s rally in this town was to protest the continued imprisonment of seven Turkish lawmakers from the three opposition parties, including two from the CHP. Those lawmakers were put in jail before they became deputies in the June 12 elections last year, imprisoned on charges of either fomenting a coup to unseat the government or making propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
But journalists’ main focus in covering Kılıçdaroğlu’s visit to Zonguldak was on the party’s recent move on the Kurdish issue. Journalists asked Kılıçdaroğlu to comment on Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç’s recent remark that if the PKK lays down its arms, its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, could be transferred to house arrest. Kılıçdaroğlu warned against such remarks, which he said would further polarize Turkish society, a majority of which blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including Kurds and Turks, in the nearly 30-year fight against the organization. A considerable number of Turkish citizens have also fallen into the trap of associating Kurds with the PKK.
When pressed with more questions on Arınç’s remarks, Kılıçdaroğlu did not rule out Öcalan’s house arrest under the condition that all four political parties in Parliament agree on such an option. Kılıçdaroğlu, however, turned down the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) offer to solve the Kurdish and PKK problems together if the other two parliamentary parties -- the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) -- refused to join a four-party national compromise commission to address the problems.
MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli has already ruled out being part of such a commission and said to a local TV station recently that he would even refuse to meet the CHP leader to discuss the main opposition party’s recently disclosed roadmap for the resolution of both the Kurdish and terrorism problems. Though it represents many Kurds, the BDP in particular protests the round-up of thousands of mainly Kurdish politicians and intellectuals as well as their sympathizers over charges of making PKK propaganda and thus has not yet been positive about the CHP offer.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s refusal to go ahead with finding a solution to both vital questions in cooperation with the AK Party alone if the other two parties continue to refuse to take part in the commission is a bit disappointing. Still, however, the CHP move toward resolving the Kurdish and terrorism problems needs to be strongly supported and encouraged for the sake of ending the nearly 30-year fight with the PKK at long last.
In the meantime, it is not only the CHP actors close to the party’s decision-making mechanism but also those within the AK Party -- which in 2009 initiated a process to find a non-military solution to the Kurdish question -- who fear that Kurds will continue demanding more even if their major demands are met in a new constitution.
Hüseyin Yayman, an academic from Ankara’s Gazi University believed to have close contacts within the AK Party, argued in an article published in the Star daily on Sunday, “Açık Görüş,” that there is a psychology that engulfs the ruling party that says, “Whatever steps the government takes, the PKK will not lay down its arms.”
The best way to overcome fear is to beat it. Hence, Turkish political parties should overcome their fears to thwart extreme Kurdish demands.