Her declaration that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the person who can solve the Kurdish problem and her criticism of the hawkish language used by the BDP were all issues that drew a good deal of attention. Zana was elected to Parliament in the 1991 elections, with an alliance formed with the Social Democratic People’s Party (SHP), and made a radical move at the time by attempting to take her oath of office in Kurdish. She was jailed for many years. Zana was someone who had the capacity to represent the crux of the Kurdish problem by way of her own personal story. Because of this, it was not possible to view her words as meaningless statements.
Both Zana’s interview and the meeting with Prime Minister Erdoğan afterwards was followed with a great deal of interest by the public, demonstrating that there is a rather extensive circle that wants an end to the violence and is seeking the development of a framework for peace. It is clear that those who have adopted a platform suitable for such discourse are, at least for now, ready to change their position. Either those within the BDP, who are on the side of a hawkish approach, or those able to silently hide their criticism are willing to support a “realpolitik” solution on the topic. The current situation points to “being at ease” until the next order comes in. In such a picture, there is a “stability” policy being sought, which desires to be ready to raise the standards, in light of the possible opportunity for a solution that will one day be born. What is happening beneath the surface is, however, different. This is because that imagined day of “an end to violence” has not come and both the violence as well as the number of lives lost are increasing, while a political peace-maker approach in which the hope that the day will come is held on to. Zana’s statements work to explain this very idea of anticipating the arrival of peace as well as the social environment. Also, the fact that after the interview other newspapers as well as television programs debated the topic for days demonstrates that there is a large segment of society that has hopeful expectations for peace. There’s no need to provide tangible proof to confirm this.
The aim of terrorists is to convince the general public to meet their demands and they do this by paying a price themselves. Society in return resists or supports the fight against terrorism and does not submit to the will of those desiring to use violence in their struggle to build power. The price paid for this struggle that is faced on both sides brings with it the declaration of a continuous path to peace. But how will this peace be created? Just how and where will, in its most extreme form, terrorism, or in softer form, a request by the Kurdish community, come to terms with the wider Turkish social consent?
Steadfast political will
First, this can best be done through a political will that is steadfast, reassuring and brings various communities’ objections to the table, carries the debate to a new place, and gives hope by assuring that things will get better.
Second, we must remember that we are in a democratic country, the political will can garner strong societal support.
Third, those who hold representative positions in this problem and wait for a day suitable for the political backdrop to change to solve the problem, should at some point, stop waiting and embrace new policies that are realistic, where new discourses and standards have been raised. Fourth, the forces that control terror and gain strength from it should be able to sacrifice their privileges, sovereignty and benefits.
However, a very important issue is that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) can only guide the solution and that other parties, primarily the main opposition party, should definitely be ready and willing to help realize conditions that would assist in moving towards a solution. Unless a common volition and attitude is formed, it is impossible to attain success. It’s because when terrorism and ethnic identity problems come together, there will always be a “living space” for policies that will destroy attempts at a solution and provoke the masses to solve the problem by means of force, and in turn these policies gain more power by doing so. The aforementioned common attitude prevents this “living space” from reflecting on to politics.
When the democratic opening started to be discussed in 2009, there again emerged a strong wave of optimism among society. However, it didn’t last long. The democratic opening evolved, however, the expectations from it lost strength. When even PKK sympathizers started to say that the organization was reaching its expiry date, nothing came of it. Then the Habur attack happened. Afterwards, through various bloody events, the terrorist organization attempted to confirm its “indispensability” in the eye of its population (Kurdish people), with which it was trying to establish a common relationship.
Why has a more effective policy not been pursued in an environment in which Zana unearthed, once again, the expectation of a solution from the society that she is speaking on behalf of, and in which she stated that approaches to peace are possible within the realm of governmental relations, for the creation of a more suitable, reasonable and democratic Turkey.
Why the PKK gives no hope
In this regard we could say that the issues that hinder a solution are as follows: First of all, the terrorist organization doesn’t give much hope for a solution due to two important reasons. Initially, it sees that violence empowers parliament-oriented politics. As long as the clashes and tension continue, the actors of legal politics keep addressing ethnic identity using a sensitive approach. “That is a matter of life and death for us. So let’s come together.” This both strengthens ethnic identity and also makes ethnic identity a political actor. So the policy that can be summarized as “all Kurdish people should vote for us” and the idea that violence is the best way of actualizing this policy merge with one another. Similarly, as mentioned before, each organization corresponds to an economy and power relations. Terrorist organizations are also based on economy and power.
It won’t be easy for the ones who have privilege and power due to being a part of such organizations, to give up their privileges. Such individuals hold on to positions that are legitimated through a rhetoric that is based on heroism, lives that are lost and people feeling indebted as a result of the lost lives, in the eyes of the social circles they are connected with.
Violence is used as a means of controlling both these social circles and ordinary politics “effectively.” The members of terrorist organization on the mountain who would lose their persuasiveness without their guns can’t easily give up these weapons, which help them to create a chain of command. Another issue is the emergence of the ever-growing evidence proving that the terrorist organization isn’t homogeneous. Likewise, clues and widespread evaluation indicate that the organization doesn’t have a chance of acting together in solidarity, due to its different international connections.
As for difficulty in political terms, it is that the AK Party’s being in power for years has caused desperation, rage and anger in the opposition. This climate that has been created by the opposition has given birth to a situation in which all kinds of destructive actions against the government are accepted almost unanimously. As a matter of fact, opposition parties that have different policies see no harm in sometimes collaborating against the government and in standing together on the same line. Joining forces against the AK Party, which makes even the contradictions between them secondary, makes it difficult to come up with a “supra-political” view where the Kurdish problem is concerned. What’s more, the prestige, which will grow bigger in the eye of the public, of an AK Party that eliminates terrorism and moves the problem to the political stage is another matter of concern for the opposition. To what extent can the moral discourse that says, “As long as the tears of our public cease and no more pain is lived” turn into a policy? That isn’t clear enough yet.
It is for sure that no problem exists forever. It must end somewhere. In the Kurdish problem, putting an end to different opinions means placing an ellipsis at the end of the problem. If politics can’t place a single end to the problem with common sense, that single end will be put be put in place by fate. It is also unknown where fate will put the end, but we can say that until then there will be more pain, more lives will be lost and the ones who lose their friends and relatives will count their pain minute by minute throughout their lives.
*Naci Bostancı is an AK Party deputy from Amasya.