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 An open letter to Turkey - The Kurdish dilemma from the lens of a Kurd 

  Opinion — Analysis  
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


An open letter to Turkey - The Kurdish dilemma from the lens of a Kurd  11.8.2012  
By Alan Osman

Turkey which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. Kurds ask for more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. Kurds call for lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.
August 11, 2012

Violence breeds violence, it may be a cliché but it’s so true and this ideology will never eliminate the very real Kurdish problem neither within Turkey or externally. It’s been said in Turkish circles that Kurds ask for too many rights and privileges but has Turkey really gone anywhere near exhausting diplomatic solutions to Kurdish issues?

The ruling AKP party's "Kurdish opening" was welcomed by Kurds as well as international human rights activists. A Kurdish-language state TV station was introduced, prisoners were given the right to speak to their families in Kurdish and an unofficial amnesty was introduced for those with links to the PKK. Although such actions were steps in the right direction, they were little steps in the eyes of Kurds and the process has long since stopped. this was partly down to Turks feeling mocked as Kurds celebrated the return of PKK members from the mountains but is that really a good enough reason to abandon diplomacy?

To be fair, the AKP has to fend of pressure from the nationalistic tendencies of some Turks and the likes of the MHP party but these groups are the reason moderate Kurds can become sympathetic to the PKK. Granting the Kurds a real political platform would be a start. This means not imprisoning hundreds of Kurdish advocates and politicians on vague charges or links to the PKK as has happened to members of the BDP. If Kurds have a solid voice being heard this will In turn, alienate and reduce support for armed strugglers.

Then there are the neighbours. Turkey really needs to try and build bridges with Kurds from neighbouring countries rather than look at any external Kurdish gains with hostility. You have to look at it from Kurd's point of view.

The rise of the Kurdistan region of Iraq since the demise of Saddam's regime and the strengthening of our autonomy is very important for us, especially as we are largest ethnicity in the world without a country.

From a Kurdish perspective, it seemed that any turn of events that had potential to strengthen our identity and autonomy was looked at with suspicion from Ankara. Examples include the lack of recognition of our people including the refusal to meet KRG representatives and the continued emphasis on territorial integrity (a clear reference to the Kurdistan region). It’s not like we were stepping on Turkey’s toes as we have been and remain the majority in the regions that we govern. This stance hasn’t and will never encourage Kurds to go out of their way to fight or even condemn the PKK.

You may say that the Kurds of Turkey will tomorrow turn around and want their own independence which is a legitimate concern but I ask does upsetting your neighbouring Kurds and holding down the identity of those within Turkey, really going to eliminate these aspirations? If anything it will strengthen them.

Let’s take a look at Syria from a Kurdish perspective. Kurds were second class to Arabs and weren’t even allowed citizenship until recent measures taken by a desperate Bashar Assad. The potential control of NE Syria by Kurdish factions has seen a hostile reaction from Ankara even though Turkey cannot do much about it as the likes of Iran and Russia, let alone the Kurds, will reject direct militarily intervention.

It’s not like Turkey can guarantee Kurds won’t be oppressed again either and even if they could where is the logic in taking a negative stance against something that may be inevitable anyway?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to take the Kurds by the hand and try and cooperate with them even if it may include involving the PYD too? You may answer “Do you expect us to negotiate with terrorists?” but remember many Kurds (rightly or wrongly) don’t see them as terrorists and the PYD leader recently said they have no interest in Turkey and are independent of the PKK. Even if he is bluffing, what does Turkey stand to lose by reaching a hand out?

You could potentially gain a strategic partner from the start and not lose time as happened with the KRG. Remember this scenario would be supported by KRG leader Barzani, who the Syrian Kurds look up to. You may think it’s unfair on the Arabs and co, for a small part of Syria to fall into Kurdish hands but the areas have a Kurdish majority anyway and are Syrian Kurds any more likely to treat Arabs badly?

Even if still deemed unfair again I ask would it benefit Turkey to take a strong stance against a scenario that may anyway be inevitable?

The fact is Turkey needs to step up a convincing “Kurdish opening”, allow a domestic Kurdish party to function without fear and continue/establish close ties with neighbouring Kurdish groups. Barzani and all those faithful to him would remain on side and reject instability in Turkey, if not for the love of the nation, at least for trading and economical purposes.

The influence of the military, the scars from blood spilt and a sense of defeat mean, of course, it’s not easy to comprehend some of these options, let alone implement.

However, the Kurdish problem will not just fade away and every step Turkey takes towards building bridges will not only gain support among Kurds, it would also bring the majority of the international community on side which would at least give Turkey a hedge that Syria doesn’t have.

Alan Osman, for, you can tweet the author.

Copyright © 2012 All rights reserved.



The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


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