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August 10, 2012, Friday

An untimely debate

The armed struggle that has continued for 30 years due to the Kurdish problem feeds a political culture that causes a different and exclusionary national psychology that dominates the country. The number of those concerned with the ethnic fight in Turkey increases with every passing day. Şemdinli is being besieged, and a bomb recently went off in Foça, killing soldiers. İzmir, Adana and Mersin are all areas with large Kurdish populations. The detonation of bombs in these areas can have only one aim: to set Kurds and Turks against each other and to make a shared life impossible.

In this political environment, it is not possible for Turkey to begin a discussion about its territorial integrity, a federation or other political status. In truth, these actions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have nothing to do with their request for a federation. I wonder if those who say “Let us debate the territorial integrity of Turkey” view the federation as a solution tied to territorial elements or as a project unconnected to territory? As it is known, a federation does not mean unity, it means collectivity.

Federalism, in the context of unity and diversity, rests on the political balances between an ethnic community that wants to remain autonomous and a nation that uses national superiority alone.

The construction of a system like this is possible in a society that has a strong disposition and feelings towards, before all else, mutual tolerance, compromise, dialogue, empathy and respect for differences. Societies with these values are societies that have adopted and internalized a democratic culture. The idea of a federation cannot be viewed as a scenario that makes it easier for people troubled by and fed up with the difficulties of living all together to separate or stand apart. If a federation is thought of in a territorial sense, or in this case an ethno-regional sense, what sort of dilemmas will be created especially by Kurdish nationals exercising their constitutional rights? Half of the Kurdish population in many of Turkey’s provinces live intertwined with other people, while in areas with a heavy Kurdish population, traditional institutions push forward a determinative position on both political and social life.

But the most important question is: In the case of a possible federal solution being adopted, who will lead Kurdish society in the political sense? That is to say, which political power will form the internal and external mechanisms of the federation?

When we look at the political power of the Participatory Democracy Party (KADEP) and the pro-Kurdish Rights and Freedoms Party (HAK-PAR), we see that at this point they don’t have the means to help implement such a political status.

And the solution sought by the PKK-Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) line is not this, in any case.

However, it is also evident that while the PKK-BDP line will play an important role in a possible federation or political formation coming to life, the party which will be able to protect the political balance and represent pluralism will be the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

The AK Party generally garners more than half of the Kurdish votes; however, they don’t see a solution in either a federation or democratic autonomy. The same goes, more or less, for the Kurdish voters who support the AK Party; we can speak of voters who say yes to supporting the political and cultural rights of Kurds, but that is it. It is evident that these same voters are very far from requesting a special status for Kurds. While this is the situation in the southeastern region, the west of Turkey is more complicated. Since we can’t speak about partition in a country where communities continue to live intertwined with one another, how would federal relations be established in, say, a metropolis such as İstanbul? We have no discernable political statistics about the Kurds living in metropolises and their relations with such projects -- democratic autonomy and a possible federation.

We must not doubt that in today’s conditions, parties that share the political arena will, in the case of a federal formation, transform into ethno-regional groups. In a society where ethnic identities or sovereignty utilized by the nation is made absolute, it is impossible for federal relations and a federal system to be established.

In order for a federal system to be possible, all sides must have possession of the new and shared values. A federation cannot be established with one common identity. The different ethnicities that comprise the federation must attain a patriotic ideal that is not composed solely of nationalistic ideas.

In the conditions of our country, this ideal is recognized as “the patriotism of Turkey, or Turkish compatriotism,” within the context of a new legal system that will be provided by constitutional patriotism. It is very evident just how far we are from this notion of patriotism.

And we will only be able to discuss, in a level-headed fashion, different solutions such as the idea of a federation, constitutional patriotism-compatriotism, multiculturalism, common society and even autonomy in as much as we draw closer to notions which I mentioned in the paragraph above.

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