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December 09, 2012, Sunday

Alienation of Turkey’s Kurds

The most radical and unflinching steps so far to tackle the century-old Kurdish issue on the basis of mutual understanding have been taken indisputably by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Since its coming to power in 2002, the AKP has been not only a party for all downtrodden social groups, but also a pro-Kurdish party.

Except for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which pursued its policies under the armed tutelage of the terrorist organization Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the AKP has been the only political party that could appeal to Kurdish voters. As a ruling party which has removed the majority of obstacles facing the use of the Kurdish language and which lends sincere support to boosting the welfare, rights and freedoms of our Kurdish citizens, the AKP has been able to secure the level of electoral support in the Kurdish-dominated eastern and southeaster provinces which it could not muster in the western provinces of the country.

Although they were more deep-rooted than the AKP, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and other parties had long ago stopped being perceived as an alternative by our Kurdish citizens. Despite their initially sparkling and all-embracing success, it appears, the fate these old parties have been experiencing will soon daunt the AKP. As the AKP grows more intimate with the establishment and attaches greater importance to the reflexes of the establishment than those of its hardcore supporters, it becomes more likely for it to suffer from the same fate as those of the CHP and MHP.

In the past, the AKP had exhibited its proclivity to set sail in the nationalist waters on several occasions, but after it secured about 50 percent of the national vote in the parliamentary elections of June 12, 2011, the AKP's certain discourses and acts moored the party decisively in these ominous waters. The positive steps taken to improve the situation for Kurds as part of the country's general democratization process had reinforced the integration of our Kurdish citizens, but the slowdowns and fluctuations in the reform processes started to speed up a sort of alienation of Kurds. In particular, the Uludere tragedy -- in which 34 civilians were mistaken for terrorists and killed by military airstrikes in Şırnak's Uludere district, due to false intelligence -- further accelerated this alienation process. The insensitive attitude adopted by the AKP, particularly including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, against this scandal triggered an emotional divorce from the AKP despite the fact that they had been supporting this party despite the unrelenting pressure from the PKK urging them to vote for the BDP.

When the terrorist PKK's merciless pressure and the BDP's devilish efforts to confuse the minds of our Kurdish citizens and lure them by exploiting all sorts of problems and troubles were added to the AKP's increased indifference, the alienation of our Kurdish citizens was further exacerbated. If the Kurdish alienation had been a problem that solely interests the AKP, it wouldn't matter much to us. However, given the fact that there is no party other than the AKP that can secure the electoral support of all regions and all ethnic and religious groups in the country, i.e., that can represent the unity and integrity of the country, alienation from the AKP means, in the current conjuncture, alienation from the state and the rest of the country. In other words, Kurds who run away from the AKP are gradually moving away from the idea of the integrity of the country. Therefore, the AKP's approach to the Kurdish issue can no longer be explained solely in terms of party interests, but acquires broader dimensions.

In this regard, the operations against the terrorist PKK and the stance against the BDP, which fails to dispense with the PKK's tutelage, and the slowdown in granting our Kurdish citizens their long deserved fundamental rights and freedoms have repercussions that go beyond the AKP. Therefore, we need to seriously ponder the potential consequences of the lifting of the parliamentary immunities of the BDP deputies who had engaged in one of the most heinous provocations by meeting with and embracing the armed PKK terrorist with premeditation -- an act which the most advanced democratic governments would find impossible to tolerate.

Given the previous acts and provocative statements of BDP deputies, the government might be justified at the highest level to lift their immunities and pave the way for their litigation. The damage such a move would make to Turkey's democracy must be calculated as well. I personally believe that the BDP's militant deputies deserve more serious punishment than the lifting of their immunities. However, I still think it wouldn't fit to our democracy to fulfill what they really deserve. Furthermore, I must note that we must be more cautious and delicate about the steps to be taken especially after the mismanagement of the Uludere and other tragedies as well as the ruling party's increasingly nationalist discourse having triggered the sense of alienation of our Kurdish citizens.

To lift the immunities of the BDP deputies is the easiest part. Unfortunately there is no easy formula for preventing the emotional breakup of Kurds from this country. This task becomes more challenging at a time when the Kurdish deputies of the AKP -- which has been the sole basis of the Kurds' sense of belonging in this country and system -- have become vulnerable to this alienation. Thus, not only the hardcore democrat deputies of the AKP, but also the Kurdish deputies of the ruling party are raising their voices against the government plan to lift the immunities of the BDP deputies. Their voices may not be stentorian, but this does not mean that they don't object. As a matter of fact, it is quite conceivable for them to do this, given the ordeal to which Halit Advan, the head of the Diyarbakır branch of the AKP's local organizations, was subjected. Advan was forced to resign from office after he said, "pious Kurds are voting for the BDP" because of the AKP's faltering discourses and policies. This case alone tells us many things about the current problem.

If the majority of Kurds still favor the country's unity and integrity despite the unrelenting pressures and propaganda of the terrorist PKK, the BDP and similar leftist/separatist political movements, this is due to the fact that the majority of our Kurdish citizens are religious. The religiousness works on a certain level for the sake of the integration of the Kurds into the system. The AKP may still be seeing itself as the sole alternative to the atheist/Marxist PKK and a political party which is acting under its tutelage. The process triggered by the splintering and alienation is leaving the door open to new alternatives that would be quick the fill the void.

Indeed, several people have already taken the plunge to establish a new political movement based on the fact that Kurds are overwhelmingly pious and these religious Kurds are aloof to the pro-PKK parties. They are running away from the AKP because of its misguided policies and discourses. These people who are affiliated with the pro-Iranian Mustazaf-Der, whose so-called civil society activities were banned by a court, and who had ties with the bloodthirsty radical Islamist terrorist organization Hizbullah, have taken the stage to establish the Free Cause Party (Hüda Party) and reign in this void.

If the AKP does not want to play into the hands of this pro-Iranian radical Islamist pro-Kurdish party that does not show any sign of regret or remorse for what they have done in the past, it may engage in a sincere self-contemplation to find out what its errors were, including the Uludere tragedy, and stop the process of alienation of our Kurdish citizens with smart and empathic policies. 

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