In an exclusive interview with Today's Zaman, Nuri Gürgür, the chairman of Türk Ocakları, has said: “From here on out, no one can deny that there is a Kurdish problem in Turkey. There will be people who resist the solution because the majority of these people live off an atmosphere of irresolvability.” When Interior Minister Beşir Atalay's request to meet with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli was declined, he knocked on the door of another representative of the Turkish nationalist movement. That representative was Gürgür.
Although Gürgür engaged in politics within the MHP for many years, his outlook on the democratization project launched by the government to solve the Kurdish problem is vastly different from the MHP's view. Sharing his assessment of the Kurdish problem with Today's Zaman, Gürgür underlined that the reason the problem has become gangrenous is that politicians have not been able to take the initiative to solve the problem.
“Incompetence, deficiency of perception and the inability to present a healthy perspective have turned the Kurdish problem gangrenous. For years, the problem was seen as a law and order problem and referred to the military while politicians just sat back. Because this concept was not changed in 1999, Turkey thought that by plugging its ears it could solve the problem. Now, there is an opportunity to solve it, but we are encountering the fanaticism of those who need to actually contribute to the solution,” he said.
Although Gürgür engaged in politics within the MHP for many years, his outlook on the democratization project launched by the government to solve the Kurdish problem is vastly different from the MHP's view. Sharing his assessment of the Kurdish problem with Today's Zaman, Gürgür underlined that the reason the problem has become gangrenous is that politicians have not been able to take the initiative solve the problem
Highlighting that every politicians that sat back and just watched until now has a responsibility and a duty to help solve this problem, Gürgür said, “This problem has evolved into a threat to this country.”
“Without a doubt, this problem is Turkey's number one problem. The concern for living in peace and safety in this country has inhibited our ability to take action for the last quarter century. We have to get rid of these shackles. The lack of sufficient efforts to solve the problem up until now is a grave mistake and cannot be justified in any way. The state's initiative to prepare a solution package based on compromise by asking political parties for their views is a satisfying development and one that should be supported,” he added.
Terror is the tip of the iceberg
He explained that terror was only the visible side of the iceberg and that the real issue that required attention was the organization's base of 5 to 6 million supporters.
“Tribalism had not been an issue for centuries until the recent period. What is the reason for this? None of the upheavals during the founding of the republic were against the Turkish Republic. They were local movements with separate reasons. In the last 25 years, this problem turned into an ethnic and tribal problem. The sociological and psychological dimensions of this must be researched,” he said.
Asked what the starting point for a solution was, his response was very clear. First terrorism must be eliminated and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party's (PKK) dominion over a crowd of 5 to 6 million people must be brought to an end.
“In order to understand the real reasoning and will of the people in the region, terrorism must be stopped. You can eliminate the PKK in one way or another, but how can you eliminate the sense of ethnic belonging created by the terrorist organization over the last 25 years? The healthy veins of our civilization and culture must be strengthened and the region's sense of allegiance to the state must be consolidated. This is the only way the primitive understanding of tribalism and ethnicism can be isolated,” he said.
In addition to the PKK terrorist organization, people in the region are also under the influence of pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) local administrations, Gürgür said, adding: “In this respect, that region of Turkey is isolated from the rest of the country. The public cannot freely vote as it wills in elections. This must end.”
The Türk Ocakları chairman said the government's style in launching efforts to solve the problem was wrong and explained that the government needs to address the issue in a way that is compatible with the nature and style of politics.
Who is Nuri Gürgür?
Gürgür was born in 1940. He graduated from the faculty of law at Ankara University. He founded the Türk Ocağı youth branch and worked as an administrator between 1958 and 1961. He worked at the National Turkish Student Union between 1961 and 1963. After working as a journalist for various newspapers and magazines, he was a writer and manager at Ocak and Devlet Dergileri, a nationalist magazine. He joined the MHP General Administration Board in 1975 and worked as the party's deputy secretary-general between 1976 and 1978. He was elected as the chairman of Türk Ocakları during the 1996 congress. He continues to serve as chairman and is the editor-in-chief of Türk Yurdu magazine. He has been assembly president of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce since 1999 and is a member of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey's (TÜBİTAK) science board. Gürgür's son, Abdullah Gürgür, is the chairman of Alperen Ocakları, the youth organization of the Grand Unity Party (BBP).
“This can't start with open discussions and negotiations. A base study should have been conducted first. Instead of organizing a workshop at a police academy, dialogue with political party representatives should have been forged. If this is really a state policy, scholars should not then be convening at a police academy,” he said.
Noting that as Türk Ocakları they do not want to be in a position to criticize the stance of the MHP and the Republican People's Party (CHP), Gürgür said: “As an organization outside of these debates, what we are arguing is that this problem can be solved if we are all on the same wavelength. We cannot solve a problem by imposing an embargo on people's thoughts. Bigotry renders you blind.”
“During our youthful years, pro-Kurdishness was absent until our high school years. Even if there was a primitive understanding of tribalism, not all Kurds paid attention to it. But now even 6 and 7-year-old children have been turned into Kurdish nationalists. This is not normal. The problem cannot be solved by dismissing those people or by saying there is no such thing as a Kurd,” he said.
Arguing that the CHP and MHP's harsh criticism against the government and mistakes in style have reached a level that could completely destroy the possibility of a solution, Gürgür explained that the CHP was approaching the issue as a matter of settling accounts with the ruling party. He noted that it would be a historic mistake for CHP leader Deniz Baykal to not communicate his legitimate criticisms to the government, adding: “The CHP is trying to ruin the discussion by not participating in efforts to solve the problem. It is simply waiting for an opportunity to say, ‘See, we were right.' But it needs to put its thoughts forward when the appropriate time and place come.”
Very natural for America to be concerned
Explaining that preparing the solution package as a state policy is very appropriate, Türk Ocakları Chairman Gürgür said that unlike the CHP and MHP's administration, it's understandable that some American institutions and organizations have penned reports on the Kurdish problem. “It's natural that some American public policy think tanks have shown interest in the subject. They do this with every matter. It's important to bear in mind that although the West views the PKK as a terrorist organization, it sees the issue as a public struggle in the public conscience and from time-to-time supports it. It is a result of this mentality that American institutions present views on the initiative that are incompatible with Turkey's realities,” Gürgür explained.
Noting that the Middle East is a critical region for American interests, Gürgür said that even if America completely or partially withdrew from Iraq it would not leave the region to its own fate and added: “Turkey's refusal of the March 1 bill made the regional administration in northern Iraq a natural American ally. Israel is supporting this structure for its own security. Turkey, however, is the region's only door to the rest of the world. It's very difficult for that structure to maintain its existence without Turkey's support. America's efforts to develop good relations between Turkey and the northern Iraqi administration need to be assessed from this perspective.”
Gürgür also said, “We don't know who the government is talking with behind closed doors or what they are talking about.” He explained that both America and Turkey have attempted to convince the PKK to lay down its arms. “The PKK will not want to lay down arms of its own volition because it has turned this business into a sector, which serves for its interests. It must be forced to do so,” he said. Gürgür said there are only two ways to achieve this: “The first is that the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] could launch a new and broader cross-border operation that includes Kandil. But this is not quite possible for various reasons. The General Staff stated that such an initiative was not realistic. The second way is to isolate the PKK in northern Iraq for which northern Iraqi and US support is necessary. The PKK is trapped in the region because of the 2008 cross-border operations. Turkey could take advantage of the PKK's difficult situation and have it lay down its arms.”
Noting that instead of reacting to the National Security Council's (MGK) decision to move forward with efforts, opposition parties need to learn what actually happened at the meeting, which is only possible by engaging in dialogue with the government, Gürgür explained that in addition to the opposition there are people within the DTP and PKK that don't want the problem to be solved either.
“DTP and PKK spokesmen are making such fanatical and extreme comments that they are getting on the public's nerves. As long as they keep that up, reactions will come together under some party or new formation if not the MHP. When we look at the map after the March 29 elections, we see that in regions where similar statements led to social unrest, the MHP's votes increased. There is a serious level of unease in the public. If the MHP properly analyzes the votes it won, it may also understand the reason for the unease. I think the MHP's rise has to do with them playing with public anxiety.
Addressee is one thing, negotiations another
The only point that Türk Ocakları and the opposition party agree on is who the participants will be. Like the MHP and the CHP, Türk Ocakları does not want the DTP and the PKK to participate in this process. However, Gürgür's views are not as harsh as the views of the MHP and the CHP.
“It would be wrong to make the DTP and PKK the addressees in terms of negotiations because both parties are at the source of the problem. But if the problem is going to be addressed, then there can be communication between them. This does not have to happen through official delegations. The state plays different roles; one of these roles can be as an intermediary. Öcalan is a megalomaniac. Now he has postponed his declaration to Sept. 1. He is going to put on a show on World Peace Day. If the president of the National Intelligence Organization [MİT] makes contact with PKK leaders in Kandil, then it is only natural for him to establish contact with Öcalan. Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan has met with DTP leader Ahmet Türk in the capacity as the leader of AK Party,” Gürgür noted.
Noting that the military supports the initiative and wants the problem to be solved through political means, Gürgür said: “The military's stance is clear now. They want a solution. If their stance changes over time, this will reveal that there is weakness in their management. But my observation is that there is a trust issue between the military and the government. It is for this reason that the military is giving material to both the opposition and government. But I think they want to find a solution.”