Considering the fact that the world has changed so much, I don’t think it is possible that Turkish nationalism could have remained the same. While Turkey is trying to rebuild a peaceful society, create a public sphere in which Kurds have equal rights with Turks will be the fields in which the most important references such as ‘Turkish patriotism,’ ‘love of Turkey’ that exist in Turkish nationalist ideology will be truly challenged. A Turk who defines himself or herself as a nationalist wants the development of Turkey in every sense. It is that the impact and power of Turkey increases and that Turkey becomes an honorable and at the same time powerful country that is respected in the international community.
A nationalist-idealist (milliyetçi-ülkücü) who wrote to me said he feels sorry for the fact that the country lost its Armenian and Greek citizens in the past, and then went on to say that he can’t find it in his heart to lose the Kurds too. It appears as though we have started to hear more of the voices of the milliyetçi-ülkücü who want to learn Kurdish and oppose all violence regardless of the circumstances. Soon we may meet more people from the ranks of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) as well as those who are well-known among the ülkücü community, who criticize their party’s policies just the way Leyla Zana criticized her former party.
The policies pursued by the MHP administration, especially with regards to the Kurdish problem, cause nationalist-patriotism to be questioned. One of the most important obstacles hindering equal rights for Kurds is nationalist sentiment and the fact that these feelings are often provoked. However, it is a fact that the majority of people who vote for the MHP are more progressive than their leaders when it comes to the issue of equal rights.
It isn’t hard to see that nationalists on their own side have been grasping for a new nationalist envisagement. It is impossible to say that nationalists have been hatching coup plans like the supporters of Ergenekon, provoking society and risking the possibility of an ethnic clash simply because Kurds would be able to use their mother tongue and local administration would become more democratic. But it is a fact that that it is no longer possible to conceal the fact that the nationalist discourse has been expressed in an incoherent way. Nothing notable beyond the “war option” has been offered up as a solution for the Kurdish issue so far, and most recently the following idea: “Let’s destroy Kandil Mountain.” This is a very clear example of the serious incoherence found in the Turkish nationalist ideology and also of how hostility is incited without much thought about the ultimate result. Similarly, calling for prudence on the Syrian issue and expressing that war is a measure of last resort also make for very coherent discourse.
If Turkish nationalists don’t want their movement to die out in this century, they need to adopt an approach excluding militarist claims and discourse when dealing with the problems related to their Kurdish siblings. If they can’t achieve this change, this transformation then the obstacles hindering them from becoming more like the ranks of Ergenekon supporters will decrease day by day and the distance between them will become shorter.
I often ask the following question to the Turkish nationalists that I meet: “If Ziya Gökalp were alive today, would he think in the same way you do about the Kurdish issue?” They must believe that the answer is quite clear because they, without hesitating, answer “yes, he would think just like us.” However, it is possible for them to convince me or others. In the early 1900s Gökalp was teaching sociology in Diyarbakır. He would start his lesson in Kurdish and he would recite these verses to his students: “mın dîl hebu/ ev dıl hebu/ mali, ciran kayıl nebun.”
It means; “I loved her [the beloved] and she loved me. However, our neighbors and families didn’t approve, accept this love.” “That is what sociology is,” Gökalp would say. In other words, sociology guides and controls society and the family, the smallest unit of society, over individual preferences. Would a Turkish nationalist who centuries ago started his lesson by uttering Kurdish words, argue against Kurds’ having equal rights with Turks? I don’t think so.
Especially if enabling these equal rights will enable Turkey to reconcile, not only the Kurds living within its borders, but also the ones living in Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Which nationalist goal does rejecting this friendship suit?