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December 19, 2012, Wednesday

Empathy vs. justification

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has received mixed reactions to his remark that he would also “go up into the mountains” to join the ranks of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) if he had faced torture similar to that experienced by pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy Gültan Kışanak in Diyarbakır Prison.

While some accuse Arınç of justifying the PKK’s brutal acts, others praise him for trying to analyze and understand the conditions under which the PKK was formed, which is a first step to solving the country’s terrorism problem, they argue.

Star’s Mustafa Karaalioğlu says Arınç is certainly not justifying the terrorists’ acts but is merely questioning the reasons why people join the terrorist organization. Moreover, it is no secret that the harsh treatment received in Diyarbakır Prison caused many people to join the PKK. And Arınç is not the first politician to say this. What is new here is the empathy toward the Kurdish people. The fact that a deputy of the government which ended the state’s old policy of denying the Kurdish identity expresses such an empathetic remark proves that the government’s approach to Kurds is not merely political and that it is eager to understand and feel the tragedy of others, the Star columnist says.

We tend to abstain from saying that we understand someone because the distinction between understanding someone and acknowledging that someone is right is often not made correctly and we are afraid that others will think that we are acknowledging that someone is right, Bugün’s Gülay Göktürk says. But Arınç took this risk of being misunderstood and showed the courage to build empathy for the terrorists in the mountains. Arınç is a respectable politician who has expressed his condemnation of terrorist acts numerous times before and is now only trying to tell us how people suffered in the past because of the state’s policy of oppression and brutality and how this policy dragged people into a deadlock. One of the ways of abandoning that policy is to show that we realize how wrong it was. Yes, we should analyze the conditions that led to the PKK’s emergence and we should try to feel Kışanak’s wounds caused by the brutal treatment in Diyarbakır Prison, but at the same time we should keep reiterating how wrong the method adopted by the PKK is. It is possible to do these two things simultaneously, Göktürk notes.

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