We should beware of provocative acts from all sides that want to ignite communal violence. Thanks to the wisdom of most Kurds and Turks there is still adequate desire to live together in this country. The PKK is trying hard to break the psychological bond between the two peoples, but it is not working. That said, the daily violence also reminds us that the Kurdish issue is still not settled.
What do the Kurds want? The answer is simple. They want to become normal citizens of this country. They do not want any privileges granted to them. They want equal citizenship rights enshrined in the constitution. In other words they want a new republic -- a republic where they are also a founding element. They are beyond the squabbles of whether three hours of elective Kurdish courses would suffice or not. They want to live together on equal terms.
The general perception among the Kurds is that this country's conservatives obtained their rights from the authoritarian/Kemalist state. They acknowledge that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was successful in suppressing the deep state and Ergenekon mentality to a level where some sort of civilian democracy prevailed. That said, they feel that the AK Party government is not willing to grant them their natural rights as equal citizens and thus view the democratization process begun in 2002 as incomplete. This is important as it has created considerable frustration and disappointment among the Kurds. They feel that the Kurdish opening in 2009-2010 was badly managed and had no strategic vision of what the end result should be.
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has very much discredited itself as a credible actor on the issue. The recent violent process and statements made by some BDP members have opened deep scars in the Turkish psyche. In the region there is also a new development as Hizbullah is forming a new party. This is likely to complicate the regional setting even further. Friends who know the region well tell me that such a party could pose a challenge to both the BDP and the AK Party.
There is by now wide consensus that the PKK issue and the Kurdish issue are two different sets of issues. Even the most benign and liberal Kurdish thinkers acknowledge that there has to be a military response to the physical threat the PKK poses. Certain parts of the PKK obviously have developed client relationships that are motivated by a set of diverse regional political and economic interests. Given the large reserves of oil and gas in Iraq, the regional game in the name of the Kurds is increasingly becoming part of a great game about energy resources. The sheer predictions for energy reserves in Iraq as well as our considerable dependency on energy imports will necessitate a more energy-related discourse on the Kurds.
The fundamental question remains: How can we institute a workable democratic order where we can live together? Such a strategy should have two simultaneous dimensions. First, a strong and robust specialized anti-terror capacity must be formed within the armed forces. This force should have an offensive strategy rather than a defensive one and should haunt the terror cells wherever they are. We should take the fight to the PKK -- not wait for them to strike at Turkish targets. That said, a simultaneous opening in the form of a new constitution should proceed. Here, a coalition between Turkey's conservatives, Kurds and liberal/democrats should be the fundamental base supporting it. This is easier said than done. But this is exactly where the AK Party has a historic opportunity. The leadership and political majority the AK Party enjoys are crucial in furthering such a process. Turks and Kurds will live together when they are on an equal footing and see themselves as founding elements of a new republic. What began in 2002 must continue now.