A New Era?
Kurdish Herald Feature - Vol. 1 Issue 1, May 2009
This may be the spring of hope, Iraqi Kurdistan and its once archrival, Turkey may finally be flirting with the idea of solving the issues that separate them and focusing on those that unite them. The Turkish journalist Pelin Turgut once wrote that for as long as she remembers, the Turkish state has had "red lines that cannot be crossed.” Unfortunately for the Kurds, one of modern Turkey's "red lines" is "Kurdistan,” and almost all that is associated with it.
The University of Salahadin, in co-operation with the Abant Platform, a prominent Turkey-based discussion forum hosted a broad conference in February of this year on finding a common future between the Kurdish and Turkish peoples. Under the theme of "seeking peace and future together," the two-day conference was attended by hundreds of intellectuals from both sides.
It ought to be noted that the Abant Platform is closely affiliated with the Fethullah Gulen movement which has been supportive of the ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP. The conference’s fourteen-point closure statement emphasizes on bilateral relations between the Kurdish and Turkish peoples, disregard for ethno-nationalism-based policies, calls for respect of human rights and rejects violence.
In March, President Abdullah Gul visited Iraq to become the first Turkish President to make such a visit since the late Fahri Kuroturk had done that in 1976. While President Gul’s itinerary did not include Kurdistan, he did meet with KRG’s Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, in Baghdad. It was also reported that the Turkish President uttered the word “Kurdistan” when describing, well… Kurdistan! President Gul's acknowledgment of Iraqi Kurds as economic and political partners sends out a clear and an unsubtle message that things are changing or at least the potential for change is there.
Turkey does, however, have an internal Kurdish problem which must be dealt with independently from Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurdish provinces in Turkey continue to rank behind non-Kurdish ones when it comes to per-capita GDP as documented by Natsumi Aijiki’s piece in this issue. Economic development in Turkish Kurdistan must leave the realm of mere election promises and must enter the government’s list of priorities.
Sometime between the February conference and President Gul’s visit to Iraq, reports of an imminent pan-Kurdish conference surfaced. The conference, according to reports from both Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey would call upon the PKK to lay down its arms. While that may prove beneficial to all parties, Turkey’s post municipal elections acts against members of the DTP can only discourage the prospect of a popular Kurdish call for PKK disarmament.
Perhaps it is time for the Turkish state to begin seeing its Kurdish electorate as equal citizens with crucial powers instead of accusing them of being sympathizers of this or that group. While an era of post-PKK southeastern Turkey is yet to be seen, Ankara can help in making that possible by treating Kurdish representatives as partners in the Turkish political process.
There certainly is a long way to go before there is a comprehensive reconciliation process between Turkey and the Kurds, yet there are signs of a possible new vision and a possible new era.
Click here to return to the main page for this issue - Vol. 1 Issue 1, May 2009