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February 22, 2013, Friday

Paradigms of nationalism and prime minister’s three speeches

Discussions on the nation and nationalism continue. Based on the distinctions between these two historical categories, a Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy raised a discussion on equality. This discussion, in which the deputy argued that the concept of nation cannot be seen as equal to nationality, led to other discussions as well.

A certain segment of people represented by the CHP attempt to sanctify Turkish nationalism and with this attempt they also try to undermine the image of the prime minister. The CHP leader's call for the prime minister to make the speech he delivered in Midyat in a Black Sea city as well is an example of impotence. Do they really believe that those on the Black Sea would not hear what was said in Midyat?

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's speech in Midyat was one that destroyed all nationalistic paradigms. His remarks become even more important when the location of the speech is considered as the Mardin-Midyat region. These two cities could be considered the most colorful cities in Turkey in terms of ethnic identity and religious beliefs.

The two oldest monasteries of the Assyrian community, Mor Gabriel and Dayrul Zafaran, which are 1,500 years old, are in this city. I am from Midyat; I spent my childhood in this city. Three or four languages were spoken in Midyat and Mardin: Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and, although less frequently, Armenian.

My mother was a Kurd but was able to speak both Kurdish and Arabic fluently. I used to have dreams in both Arabic and Kurdish. I learned the Assyrian language a bit as a child but with time, I have forgotten it.

The 1915 deportation brought the relations between the groups in this city onto a whole different stage. The racist practices of the Ottoman era and of the Kemalist nationalism that followed have destroyed Mardin and Midyat, as well as its diverse ethnic and linguistic composition.

Now, 100 years later, a Turkish prime minister goes there and states that he does not recognize Turkish and Kurdish nationalisms. The placard that the people held in their welcoming ceremony at the rally there read “We are with you until 3071, not 2023,” which pleased the prime minister. Referring to the Turkish conquest of Anatolia of 1071, this means that we, as Turks, Arabs and Kurds, are ready to coexist peacefully not for 1,000 years but for 2,000 years.

The people in Mardin and Midyat who express their joy and enthusiasm in this way have suffered from the extreme approaches of nationalism, which have dismissed cultural diversity and plurality in the past. Thus, it is important that Erdoğan tell these people that he disregards all concepts of nationalism. Erdoğan's words were a declaration of the end of the nationalist paradigms from the most authoritative source, the prime minister. What happened in Midyat was the meeting of his political approach and the future hopes of citizens, whose support is being asked, at a common place. Three speeches by the prime minister over the last 10 years, I think, have deeply affected the country's politics. One of them was the speech he delivered in Diyarbakır in 2005. For the first time, Erdoğan admitted in this speech that the state had in the past committed crimes, that the Kurdish problem was a democracy problem and that they were ready to address this issue. After this statement, it became evident that nothing would remain the same in the Kurdish issue.

But at that time, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) decided to resume its war during this period. Coup plans were made. The second important speech was the one he delivered in Parliament on the Dersim incident. The CHP was unable to deal with this speech.

For the first time in the history of this country, a Turkish prime minister apologized for what happened in Dersim. And for the first time, a statesman made both the Kurds and Turks cry -- and I was one of these people -- I was silently sobbing on a bus trip while listening to the prime minister.

Those who wonder where Kurdish-Turkish political relations would evolve should consider these three speeches, in Diyarbakır, Parliament and Midyat, because the main paradigm that will determine the future of Turkey is expressed in these speeches. If you cannot appreciate them without any “buts,” the only thing you are left to do is embrace one of the nationalisms.

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