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August 29, 2012, Wednesday

Alarm bells do not ring despite danger on its way

A veteran Turkish politician has disclosed an initiative to solve the terrorism problem, the country's longstanding issue and one that hampers its stability. Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek met with the media last Monday and outlined what he called a “national consensus text,” composed of 11 points, for the fight against terrorism, which he defined as a national issue that should be solved through state wisdom and by consensus between all parties. He said he had written the text individually (as a private Turkish citizen or as a deputy) and not as parliament speaker. In doing so, he said he was inspired by the Spanish model for fighting terrorism, and suggested that Spain to be used as an example in efforts to curb violence.

Çiçek said that the drafting of a brand new democratic Constitution by a commission composed of representatives from all four parties in Parliament presents the nation with a great opportunity to enshrine basic rights and freedoms, as a means to address the terrorism problem. It is, however, bizarre that Çiçek refrained from using the term “Kurdish question” in his national consensus plan, instead setting out guidelines for combating terrorism through military and democratic means. He suggested that his plan, after amendments, be accepted as a guide, to be agreed on by all parties concerned.

Çiçek's initiative of a recipe for national consensus to solve this enduring problem is crucial at a time when the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on the Kurdish question have been hijacked by security concerns, while the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has intensified its violence and has lately targeted civilians. Six civilians, including four children, were killed and 68 others injured in a recent terrorist attack staged in the southeastern province of Gaziantep.

It was, however, surprising that the AK Party, for which Çiçek is also a deputy, ruled itself out as an interlocutor in the national consensus plan, even asking that Çiçek clarify who is addressed by the initiative. As a matter of fact, Çiçek made it clear that he had taken individual action in composing the document, and declared it open to public debate.

As Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç stated yesterday, the AK Party government opposes some of the content of the document. Further, according to Arınç, several measures suggested in it, such as addressing the economic grievances of the war-torn southeastern Kurdish regions, are already in force, initiated by the government. It is a fact that, though political efforts to solve the Kurdish question are currently at a standstill, it was the ruling party that put its stamp on courageous actions such as initiating talks -- now sabotaged and stalled -- with the PKK itself, something no other government in the history of the Turkish Republic has done. Opposition parties, which continue to ignore the real causes of the Kurdish and terrorism problems, unsurprisingly showed little interest in Çiçek's national consensus plan. They in particular have been dragging their feet in the drafting of the new Constitution, which is needed to bring Turkey in line with universal democratic standards and required to address both the Kurdish and terrorism problems.

As can be understood from the reactions of all political parties, Çiçek's plan does not seem likely be adopted. In that sense, there is no reason for me to be optimistic about the alarm bells that finally rang in Turkey and their capacity to prevent danger, i.e. the possible fragmentation of the Turks and Kurds.

Meanwhile, some of the proposals set out in Çiçek's national consensus plan have fallen short of satisfying Kurds seeking autonomous status. Still, his initiative to solve the worsening terrorism problem should be read as a serious warning to all political parties that the Turkish-Kurdish division is deepening, and that steps should be taken immediately to prevent the fragmentation of the nation forever through a civil war. Despite this danger, state wisdom has not yet emerged to solve the problem, which requires bold steps, such as preparing the groundwork for resuming talks -- if not now, then later -- with the terrorist organization, on condition that they lay down their arms, and preparing the public for this real-world step. 

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