Nationalism over Reason

Turkey Fails Again on the Kurdish Issue

In response to the latest clashes between Kurds and police, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan poured oil on the fire when he gave security forces permission to act against Kurdish women and children. A commentary by Baha Güngör

Turkish special forces aiming at Kurdish protesters in Diyarbakir (photo: AP)
According to Erdogan, security forces will act against Kurdish women and children if they are being used as "pawns of terrorism". Turkey simply cannot afford such rhetoric, Güngör argues

​​We have no reason to support the recent wave of violence instigated by militant Kurds in Turkey. Those who throw petrol bombs at buses, callously take into account the deaths of innocent people and threaten tourist areas deserve neither our backing nor approval.

What the so-called Kurdistan Freedom Falcons are doing – acting as the ruthless henchmen of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (the PKK, an organization banned in Germany and many other European countries) – is terrorism, pure and simple.

Accord with democratic principles

At first glance, it appears perfectly normal in this situation that the Turkish state would use all means at its disposal to defend its citizens. However, these means must be in accord with democratic principles. At times like this, authorities need to remain level-headed, ensure the safety of innocent bystanders, and use appropriate force during military and police operations.

Unfortunately, these are areas where the Turkish government has failed.

The recent wave of violence shows that the state has learned nothing from its 15-year long conflict with the PKK, a struggle that began in 1984 and ended with the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999. On the contrary, Turkey continues to repeat the same old mistakes that led to the loss of billions of dollars in trade and severely tarnished its image abroad, especially in Europe.

In addition, the by all appearances extremely arbitrary countermeasures used to quell Kurdish unrest are driving many young Kurds, robbed of their hopes and future opportunities, straight into the arms of militant Kurdish underground organizations.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be popular in Europe, but his current actions are scandalous. When Erdogan declares that security forces are allowed to act against women and children who are being used as "pawns of terrorism," it flies in the face all European and international values and norms.

As a country striving toward membership in the EU, Turkey simply cannot afford such rhetoric and hardliner policies.

Turkey missed a golden opportunity

The latest wave of violence across the country has dashed all hopes of finding a solution to the Kurdish issue. There is a very real danger that draconian measures by government authorities will now only exacerbate the problem, just as they did over two decades ago.

What's more, during the period of relative calm in the remote and economically underdeveloped Kurdish areas over the past few years, Turkey missed a golden opportunity to turn the situation around.

It has failed to transform the feudal structures in eastern and southeastern Anatolia and has not taken power back from the approximately 10,000 Kurdish village guards who were armed, paid and sworn to loyalty by the state. Plans for support programs to establish new businesses, boost economic growth and create jobs to replace employment in the "war industry" are still collecting dust in ministry offices in Ankara.

The latest developments and reactions from Ankara raise fears that Kurds will once again feel that they have to choose whether they are for or against the Turkish state.

And if this state chooses to react with emotions and nationalistic slogans instead of according to reason and the rule of law, then it will come as no surprise if protests lead to the formation of underground cells, which in turn lead to a return to terrorism throughout the country.

Baha Güngör


Translated from the German by Paul Cohen

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