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The Kurdish Issue

Murat Belge*

What do Tayyip Erdoğan and, consequently, the AKP plan to do about the process and series of events we have been experiencing since roughly the time of the Republic, which we refer to as the “Kurdish issue”? Tayyip Erdoğan, who may have taken the boldest stance on this issue, not only did not abandon that stance but also began implementing the opposite. Within the framework of this problem, almost everyone we know by name is either in prison or under the threat of being imprisoned. Almost everyone elected as mayors by the Kurdish people has either been imprisoned or “dismissed from office,” and a “trustee” has been appointed in their place.

Tayyip Erdoğan probably does not see this situation as a “solution to the problem.” But what is the solution, is there such a thing as a solution? Can we solve the Kurdish issue by perpetuating this factual situation? Tayyip Erdoğan, who has made assessments on the subject in the field he opened by saying “peaceful solution,” can he see the existing situation as a “solution” now?

He can. We have seen that he can easily do the opposite of almost everything he has said so far. In this regard, his “ultimate” solution may be the “we are all Muslims” solution.

Muslim Kurds, by obeying the words of Muslim presidents, sit quietly and continue to live with their “rights” deemed suitable and sufficient for them. Kurds who refuse to do this are declared illegal, and whatever is done to illegal individuals is done to them as well, and thus, we continue. We are already doing this. Therefore, the solution to the Kurdish issue may be the continuation of the current situation. The number of Kurds who do not pledge allegiance to Tayyip Erdoğan may be much higher than those who do; but there is nothing to be done. In fact, considering how inclined Erdoğan is to hidden opportunities in the concept of “survival,” this situation can even be seen as an advantage.

What Tayyip Erdoğan will do about this and everything else, what he thinks, is useful to predict what else will happen to us. What we really need to think about is what the opposition is doing. But when we look at this side, we do not see a brighter situation.

Let me say this from the beginning: Any process that does not have an effective and determined contribution from the Kurds will not really provide a valid solution. When I say “effective contribution of the Kurds,” I am not talking about Kurds who have adopted the goal of an independent Kurdistan, of course. Maybe even the PKK did not have such a goal (at least in the short term). However, the method it chose for the struggle required the methods that such a goal would entail. But this is not the path HDP has chosen now. HDP is struggling to achieve a democratic Turkey where Turks and Kurds live as equal citizens. Is there a need for this? Yes, I think so. It cannot be said that what has been done so far for this purpose has been in vain. There have been improvements, progress. But many things that should be have not been achieved. The most important thing is for HDP to reach the maturity that will move the issue from “armed” to “political” struggle. Thus, the opportunity arises for groups ready to work for democracy to act together. This is a very important factor. But have we used this advantage (“achievement”) properly?

I have to say “no.” As preparations were made for the May elections, we were stuck in the “hexagon”; the possibility of a “septet” did not arise. The culprit was İYİ Party. Because there were various advantages represented by İYİ Party’s presence within the process, others could not object to this situation; HDP also understood the situation and did not take any action to break this forced “coalition.” I think that in the process that began to take shape after the election, the attitude of treating HDP as a “stepchild” should be abandoned. As I said above, a “democratic” struggle without the active participation of the Kurdish people seems “futile.” How can we achieve a democratic solution to any problem without channeling the Kurdish issue into a democratic path? If we are afraid and hesitant to act shoulder to shoulder with the Kurds to wage this democratic struggle, what kind of “democracy” are we talking about?

Let’s take a look at the “peaceful solution” days again. We know that those who adopt a rigid nationalist stance in the face of this issue are not limited to MHP-İYİ Party alone but also exist within all existing political lines. However, when Tayyip Erdoğan indicated that progress in another direction was possible by saying “Peaceful Solution,” there was not a very negative atmosphere in the country. Those we expected to object did object, but they were in the minority. Tayyip Erdoğan, I believe, felt the need to change his policy and reverse what he did because he felt no pressure from society, especially considering his lack of affinity with the world view represented by HDP (and Demirtaş). So, it might not cause a major backlash if a party in the opposition now emerges with a similar view and stance. Without a doubt, Erdoğan and his party will do their best to use this to their advantage, as they have done so far. In an environment where the opposition does not need to learn how to oppose from the government, I think it should be accepted as a situation that needs to be confronted. The opposition has done this (with stories of immunity, etc.), but I don’t know what they gained from it.

HDP is an asset for Turkey with its current stance. The opposition must understand and appreciate its value and should not fall into the trap of pushing it away from its current stance.

This article first was originally published in Birikim Magazine on September 11, 2023, Monday and translated into English by Politurco.

*Murat Belge was born in 1943. He graduated from Istanbul University Faculty of Letters, Department of English Language and Literature. After spending two years in prison during the March 12 period, he returned to the university in 1974. He resigned as an associate professor in 1981. He has written for various journals such as Halkın Dostları, Birikim, Yeni Dergi, Yeni Gündem, Milliyet Sanat, and Papirüs, as well as newspapers like Cumhuriyet, Demokrat, Milliyet, Radikal, and Taraf. In 1983, he founded İletişim Yayınları (İletişim Publications). Murat Belge, who became a professor in 1997, was a faculty member at Bilgi University.

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