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January 22, 2013, Tuesday

Not Kurdish problem, democracy problem

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's remarks in Gaziantep on Sunday have led to fresh debates among columnists about the nature of the Kurdish issue.

The prime minister said: “I do not acknowledge anything called a ‘Kurdish problem.' I accept the problems my Kurdish brothers and sisters have, but I do not accept Kurdish nationalism. We said no to the old policy denying Kurdish ethnicity; we said no to assimilation. We stand at equal distance from our Kurdish, Turkish and Arab brothers and sisters.”

Referring to Erdoğan's “There is no Kurdish problem” remark, Star's Fehmi Koru says other politicians making the same remark in the past have implied that there is no “Kurdish ethnicity” in the country, that Kurds are all Turks and so there can be no problem for people who do not exist. But on the other hand, the next part of Erdoğan's speech on Sunday shows that he does not deny the ethnic differences of Kurds. Koru says he wishes Erdoğan had been clearer about what he really meant. But the Star columnist thinks Erdoğan believes that it is ethnic discrimination to say the “Kurdish problem,” as we all know that minorities and ethnic groups in Turkey have problems and demands that have not been properly met by the state so far and that it is not all about Kurds. In other words, we have a democracy problem, the columnist says. And the bright side is that Kurds today know that Erdoğan does not mean to deny the existence of Kurds' grievances when he says “There is no Kurdish problem,” as he leads the government which has made the most progress toward solving this question. Kurds know that Erdoğan is already striving to solve the democratic problems of Kurds and so that's why are not offended by any of his remarks, he says.

Bugün's Ahmet Taşgetiren applauds Erdoğan's remarks. The columnist believes the more the government's ongoing peace process advances, the more realistic and less extreme the demands of Kurds will become. As a matter of fact, jailed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan recently said that he gave up on the idea that Kurds should have their own independent state. However, another significant change has lately been seen in young Kurds, he says. Despite the argument that young Kurds are not integrated into Turkish society, research and surveys reveal that the majority of Kurds want to live together with Turks. But rather than the prime minister's discourse of “one nation” uniting us, it is in fact the common religion of Islam and marriages between Turks and Kurds that keep us together and facilitate our integration, Taşgetiren argues.

Eyüp Can from Radikal says that a high-ranking government official told him: “We always looked at Kurds with the fear that they would divide us, but now we are looking at Kurds thinking that they can contribute to Turkey's further development.” This is a new approach Turkey has adopted, and it will hopefully work, he writes.

Previous articles of the columnist