SEYFETTIN – Kurdish movement at crossroads

Kurdish movement at crossroadsIn my previous piece on Tuesday (“Looking at Kurdish issue from DiyarbakIr”), I promised to discuss the medium and long-term perspectives on the Kurdish problem more comprehensively.One of the hot debates we had with our interlocutors in DiyarbakIr was, indeed, the complex interferences between the fight for democracy in Turkey — which means, ceteris paribus, the fight against the authoritarian drift of Mr ErdoIan — and the Kurdish movement’s fight political and cultural rights.

The dilemma of the Kurdish movement lies within the definition of priorities: Do Kurdish political organizations, particularly those close to PKK — which is an active actor in the settlement process along with its leader calan — give priority to the fight against authoritarianism or to the attainment of individual and collective rights? Since fighting authoritarianism means simultaneously fighting ErdoIan, his ambitions for a presidential regime and his control over the media and the judiciary, how can they, at the same time, get their rights through negotiations conducted with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its uncontestable leader, Tayyip ErdoIan?There is no easy answer to this question. When we asked this question to Seyit FIrat, a prominent member of the permanent delegation of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) — a kind of de facto parliament consisting of representatives of civil society associations and institutions close to the PKK –he answered that authoritarian measures damage the Kurdish movement and historical experience shows that anti-democracy always finds the Kurds at the end of the day.

He added that their preference is clearly for the parliamentary regime. For proof, it is enough look at the proposals made by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) for the new constitution in the National Assembly.

I would like to note that I personally think that the BDP approach to the new constitution has been the most democratic of all. Other interlocutors like Tahir Eli, the new president of the DiyarbakIr bar, or Ieyda Bucak, the president of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)onfirm this approach.

We frequently heard that “the Kurdish problem cannot be solved without democracy in Turkey and Turkey cannot be democratic without solving the Kurdish problem”Finally, various components of the Kurdish movement are ready to fight for democracy and to oppose the presidential regime, but at the same time they do not conceal the fact that they do not see a reliable alternative to AKP rule. All they can hope for at the moment is an evolution of the People’s Republican Party (CHP) toward a true, social-democrat party.

“The CHP must change,” said Seyit FIrat unambiguously.The second hot debate we had was, obviously, over one of the main parameters of the solution to the Kurdish problem in the medium and long terms.

I had already noted in my previous column that all groups within the Kurdish Movement ask for the right to education in their mother tongue. This demand became, in a sense, the red line for Kurds, including the AKP supporters among them When I remarked that young Kurds also have to speak Turkish perfectly in order to prevent inequalities in opportunities, my interlocutors agreed.

I think the implementation of a double language system is unavoidable in the near future and the CHP has to adapt to this idea as soon as possible.The other critical issue regarding the solution is, of course, the institutional set-up for collective rights.

The emergence of the Kurdish Rojava province in northern Syria as an autonomous region and the recent events in Iraq that brought the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) very close to their independence radically changed the parameters of the long-run solution. Regarding this point, I have already written that the BDP-PKK became, in a way, more moderate than the other Kurdish parties, which, from left to right, all ask for a federal solution while the former are ready to be satisfied with regional autonomy.

Ierta Bucak, the president of the Turkish KDP, underlined that without federalism Kurds would be condemned to the status of a simple minority. I must also note that some of my interlocutors close to the PKK line did not conceal the fact that they do not support an independent Kurdish state in south Kurdistan.

However, when I tried to learn what the final solution would look like if an independent Kurdish state were founded by Barzani and, if a similar evolution were to occur in Rojava how these events would influence the Kurdish problem of Turkey, all the interlocutors, including AKP supporters, think that deep economic integration with Turkey accompanied by loose political integration — say, a kind of confederation — would be the best solution for Kurds as well as for Turks.Paradoxically, the PKK line asks for a “minimal program” while other leftist, conservative or Islamic movements ask for a “maximal program” During our meeting with the permanent members of the DTK we were told that the recent legal framework announced by the AKP government is a very positive step but that the content is empty.

It must fulfill three major, basic measures: general amnesty (including amnesty for calan), the right to education in the mother tongue and regional autonomy. I have to underline that this regional autonomy would not exclusively be for “Northern Kurdistan” but rather a devolution embracing the entire country.

The right to education in the mother tongue has become a red line for all Kurdish movements. Aside from this common demand, however, there are quite different views about the organization of collective rights and the institutional set-up it requires.

The Rights and Freedoms Party (Hak-Par), representing a coalition of old Kurdish socialist and democratic movements the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), representing the historically conservative pro-Kurdish movement and sharing close ties Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani’s KDP as well as some representatives of Islamist associations ask for a federal solution.In my next column, I will discuss the debate over suggested solutions for the medium and long term more comprehensively.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman