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January 08, 2013, Tuesday

Honor of Turks, Kurds

Although there is optimism in Turkish society about the latest initiative of the government to find a solution to the Kurdish issue, in which Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is expected to broker a deal for the disarmament of the terrorist group through talks with the government, columnists point out the risks of the process, calling for more vigilance.

Easy solutions to big problems are possible only in tales and ideologies; thus, we need to know that solutions to the terrorism and Kurdish issues are not easy, Sedat Laçiner from Star says. The columnist lists four possible risks of the talks.

First is Öcalan himself, as he is no man to be trusted, he says. “Although some liken Öcalan to peace-seekers like Mandela or Gandhi, Öcalan is neither a pacifist nor a man that would normally engage in politics. Öcalan’s faith in guns and terrorism has not changed a bit in the last 14 years he has been in jail. What makes Öcalan different, however, is that he is a pragmatist and an opportunist who would do anything when in trouble,” Laçiner says. The second big risk is sabotage from the PKK. The organization does not have the courage to go against Öcalan as his sole image holds the organization together. But the priorities of Öcalan and those of the organization are quite different and at some point, pro-war wings within the PKK might sabotage the talks. The third risk is the PKK’s international connections. The PKK is no longer a Turkey-based organization; it is an international structure. Therefore, what Iran, Syria or Iraq will say about the conditions determined in the talks should be well calculated. And the fourth risk is that even if these risks are overcome and the PKK is disbanded, new small PKKs might emerge and Turkey might face a new pro-Kurdish wave of terrorism.

In the meantime, some columnists have criticized a recent common discourse that “we shouldn’t damage Turks’ honor while restoring that of the Kurds.” Tarhan Erdem from Radikal says honor is not a value that one can have by taking it from another. “More than one person can have honor. Moreover, by protecting the Kurds’ honor, Turks are actually strengthening their own honor and those that oppose restoring more rights to Kurds are in fact putting their own honor at risk. Introducing cultural and political rights for Kurds is not a ‘grace we should grant.’ These are the natural rights of Kurds. Furthermore, this will help Turkey and Turks improve in practical and spiritual terms. The opposite will damage our honor,” he says.

Bugün’s Gülay Göktürk agrees with Erdem, saying rights are not in limited number and they surely do not decrease when distributed. Offering education in Kurdish won’t harm Turkish education or if more freedoms are introduced in the Southeast, freedoms in the west won’t be damaged by this. On the contrary, if the state acts in a more democratic way towards Kurds, it will raise Turkey’s democratic bar and welfare altogether. Or is the problem that Turks are worried about losing their first-class Turkish identity, Göktürk asks.

Previous articles of the columnist