Turkey’s Kurdish issue: Yet again we fail

The news of yet another attack on our military installations in the Southeast reminds »»

The news of yet another attack on our military installations in the Southeast reminds us again about the senseless waste of human lives, critical resources and most importantly of our hopes that we can solve this problem.

At the time of writing, eight Turkish soldiers and 10 Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants are dead. Dozens are injured. Young boys from ordinary families have plunged their families and loved ones into despair and agony.

This evening we will hear from a variety of corners that the Turkish state is resolute in combating terrorism, the PKK will continue to describe these senseless attacks as steps in their fight against the Turkish state and in three days’ time we will have all forgotten about it and continue with our ordinary lives. Tomorrow evening we will all be watching our favorite Turkish soap opera and pretending that our lives are continuing in normality. There will be criticism from the opposition that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should have cut short his trip to Mexico and returned to Turkey and there will be a response from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) that this was not necessary.

Any father and mother knows all the work and care that goes into raising a child. How much love, energy and time is invested in the bringing up of one’s offspring. I recently watched Mahsun Kırmızıgül’s film “Güneşi Gördüm” (I Saw the Sun), which is a sober critique of the immense waste emanating from the fight in the Southeast. Hearing today about our country’s losses we are once again humbled by this senseless self-destruction. Even though I am the father of two children, I cannot even remotely feel what it would feel like to be informed of one’s son being killed at the age of 20. It must be such pain that merely writing about it is making me extremely uncomfortable.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş has made a long-awaited statement calling for the PKK to stop all armed activities. This is welcome and constructive, but I think the most concise statement came from independent deputy Ahmet Türk, who soberly noted that what is needed is to “produce policies that would put an end to these painful events.” Given the ups and downs in the combat against the PKK it is hard to see a consensus on how to confront the threat.

Also, there is no clearly defined objective articulated that would give us a sense of what we should expect. The Turkish side is fighting first and foremost among itself on how to confront the PKK issue. It is wasting invaluable energy on how to go about dealing with the Kurdish issue. Even defining the issue is a source of wide disagreement. Under such circumstances it should be no surprise that the PKK continues to make headlines with these senseless killings, as is the case of the latest Dağlıca attack on Tuesday.

The Turkish body politic has not been able to produce a political process that can put an end to this senseless destruction we impose on ourselves. It has not shown itself capable of engaging with relevant actors to complete a political process that would give hope to all of us. Turks and Kurds are destined to live together. Yet we are unable to build a solid foundation of our togetherness. If the current trend continues, I am afraid the mental separation of our people will only widen further.

The social fabric of this society is already very strained. Incapable of finding a formula to address common issues and problems around a negotiating table, we continue to fight in the mountains of the Southeast. That amounts to the absolute failure of the political class of the last three decades. The Kurdish issue should be this country’s number one priority. It will remain this way until we solve it. It remains to be seen which political leadership will finally be able to do it before we are all consumed by this in the mountains of the Southeast.