A Contact Group Plan for Syria

The Kurdish question — in this instance meaning what Turkeyand’s position toward the Kurdish nationalist question will be after the June 7 parliamentary election — is of substantial significance.
What I mean here is not just the potential consequences of the pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) passing, or failing to pass, the 10 percent election threshold, but the consequences for the many Kurdish citizens of Turkey. This includes not just Kurds living in the eastern and southeastern provinces, but in all of Turkey. It is estimated that more than half of the Kurds in Turkey live in regions outside of the Southeast.
The June 7 election affects all citizens of Turkey. Since it was created, the strategy of the HDP has been to be an inclusive party open to all people of Turkey who wanted to be members of the party or who might vote for the HDP in the upcoming election or those who desire an end to the conflict between the state and Kurds.
Nevertheless, the media in Turkey and internationally is focused mainly on the question of whether or not the HDP will be able to pass the 10 percent threshold. This is a vital question. It is vital because if it does not pass the threshold then it can be assumed that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will abandon even the little that is left of the peace process.
Indeed, if the media in Turkey and the international press are correct, the peace process will be entirely aborted, resulting in the possibility of increased armed conflict with the Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK) and strong resistance from the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).
This development would be a tragedy for the people of Turkey. Given that during the 13-year tenure of the AKP — during which the AKP has continued to increase the percentage of votes it has won in both local and parliamentary elections — it seems unlikely that it will change its historic, political, cultural or religious positions toward the Kurdish question. The same can be said for the peace process regarding the legitimate demands of Kurdish nationalist movements and of Kurds. Here I stress Kurds, and not just the PKK, the KCK or the HDP.
The HDP stresses that devolution of administrative governance with a good deal of political autonomy in the heavily populated Kurdish regions is the key requirement for resolving, or at least beginning to address, most of the issues that the HDP and other Kurdish nationalist parties, organizations and even Kurds who identify strongly with their Kurdish ethnicity want to see resolved.
The primary question for the people of Turkey, the AKP and other political parties as well as the armed forces and intelligence agencies is whether the Turkish state will be able to meet the most salient and reasonable demands of the Kurds without jeopardizing the stability of Turkey as a state. It is just not the stability of Turkey as a state but as a country that plays a crucial role in the geopolitics of the Middle East, especially in Syria, Iraq and Iran.
It is vital that Turkey and the AKP understand the changing geopolitics of the Middle East and the most efficacious role that it can or should play in the region, especially regarding the role of Kurdish nationalist movements in Iraq, Syria and Iran.
The devolution of political power has already occurred in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and political power is quickly being provided to Kurds in Syria, especially in the northeast regions of Jazira, Kobane and Afrin. Whether the gains that Kurds have made in Syria are rolled back is now less certain after the valiant defense they made in Kobane. In Iran as well, the Kurdish nationalist movements are gaining strength.
In addition, it is important for Turkey and the AKP to fully recognize the importance of andquotpower movementsandquot spreading among the Catalans in Spain, the Flems in Belgium and the Scots in the United Kingdom. The growing strength of the Scots in the UK is a good example of how devolution of power and even negotiations for independence, can occur within democratic frameworks and through negotiations.
The suppression of ethnic, cultural, religious and racial groups can bring short-term aantages to oppressive governments, ethnic groups or ruling classes. But it is a time-consuming endeavor, sometimes lasting decades. Now is a propitious time that governing groups could use for the devolution of power, thereby enhancing their own livelihoods and security.
June 2015 will mark the 90th commemoration of the Sheikh Said rebellion, the first Kurdish nationalist movement in Turkey.
Surely now is the time to begin negotiations for the devolution of governance before the 100th commemoration.
hr *Robert Olson is a Middle East analyst based in Lexington, Kentucky.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman