Concerning the Ireland peace process, I don’t remember any stretch of time when the Irish seemed to retreat into a “lethargy of peace” in the shadow of a politically meaningless discourse saying, “If he wills, Tony Blair can solve this problem,” [as is being said vis-à-vis Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] but then continue to focus on war.
I also know that the Basques have never put the peace mission solely on the shoulders of Felipe González Márquez, and South Africans have not said, “If Frederik Willem de Klerk wills, peace will come to South Africa.”
Peace will not come when a leader wakes up one morning and says: “My country is fed up with war. My dear citizens, I hereby declare peace as of this morning.”
Rather, peace will come when the people who have been oppressed, neglected and denied their existence and who have come to believe that they can reclaim their political and cultural rights through armed struggle and who therefore have fought for many years stop resorting to violent methods and when, at the same time, the states that believe that they can suppress these demands for rights and freedoms by force and through violence stop believing in methods of armed suppression.
If peace has become no longer a dream but a reality in the Irish problem triggered by deep-running sectarian conflicts, this is not because British statesmen have come to believe in peace but because the Irish people, too, have come to believe in it as well.
If peace has come to South Africa, this is not because de Klerk, the leader of the racist administration, wanted it and was very powerful but because Nelson Mandela, the leader of the black people, wanted it as well and he, as a leader who spent half of his life in prison, managed to “look forward without being terrorized by daily developments” and advised his people accordingly.
Indeed, the world truly appreciated the peace efforts of both leaders and gave the Nobel Peace Prize to both of them.
South Africa’s blacks certainly knew they had an interlocutor for peace talks. They also knew that people would not come to South Africa before their interlocutors were convinced about peace or before they could assure them of peace. Yet they were also aware of the fact that peace would not come out of a petition to a powerful leader with suitable demands, i.e., via “citizens applying to a powerful leader.”
If various peace efforts around the world have really ended up with true peace, this is because the combating parties have come to see and believe that nothing can be obtained by fighting.
Of course, just seeing this is not enough. You also have to express this with a language of peace understandable to your interlocutors as a result of the changing conditions. If you sit at a peace table with your interlocutors and if your demands are not fulfilled, your interlocutors should be assured that you will not declare another war on them, killing their soldiers or police officers.
Of course, the road to peace is not paved with unilateral political willpower.
Ethnic resentment and rage that are the traces of a long-standing conflict and deadlock should subside as well.
Parties should be able to neutralize the war cries of the groups that were products of the political culture of this past, i.e., the groups that are resolved to fight “until the last drop of their blood,” and to stop these groups.
The number of people who are resolved to fight “until the last drop of their blood” were not few among the African National Congress (ANC), in the racist administration of de Klerk, in the IRA, among the Irish and the British, in South Africa or in Ireland even when everyone came to see that there was no other way than to make peace.
It is futile to search for a powerful leader who can force -- if he wills -- the fighting parties who are not ready for peace to believe that peace is the only way.
In a country, peace will come only after the combating people believe in peace.
Experiences around the globe tell us that the fighting groups cannot be goaded into this belief, but they have to face the consequences of their own war experiences and engage in self-critique.
Groups miles away from this self-critique and states that believe there is no other way than to fight against them cannot make peace.
In light of the foregoing considerations, one may ask, “What does Leyla Zana’s recent initiative mean?” I think you should have already realized this article is actually an introduction to that topic.
I will continue to share with you my views, which may sound quite incongruous to what you have been hearing or reading. And luckily, I’ll be doing this tomorrow. I would like to extend my thanks to Bülent Keneş and Pınar Hilal Vurucu at Today’s Zaman who have given me the opportunity to write two articles weekly. And I will be writing my second article tomorrow.