War, Peace, Violence and Communication: What Abdullah Öcalan’s Statement is about

One asks the question, why have we fought for decades if we can just talk and try to solve our problems? It is impossible to summarize what last three decades have taken from or country, or our humanity. To even think about what or whom we lost should bring any human being great shame. Humanity aside, Turkey is unfortunately a defense economy. The state has spent hundreds of billions of dollars for military expenses in the last decades. So let us ask the question: why did –about forty thousand- people have to die if we could just talk and solve things?

Whatever your political stance is, that Abdullah Öcalan is being considered as a party in solving the Kurdish question, and that at least some part of the public opinion is “okay” with it shows how far we came in terms of communication. We clearly owe this one to the abolition of the unnecessary military authority. If we decided things according to the generals’ opinions like we used to do, we would not be able to reach what is normal; nor would we be able to consider what is normal as an applicable solution. Now we can. What the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) wanted to achieve, and what they face now is another issue.

Roots of the PKK go back to the military coup of 1980, 12th of September. Seeing the situation in the country after the coup, that is, people getting tortured, killed and prosecuted for absurd things, the first movements were started by the people who escaped to the countries in the region. Some of them might have thought it would be a good idea to resort to violence, thus the story of the PKK began. So far, they have been “directing attention to the problems of the society of the Kurds.” To think that it took about thirty years for someone, anyone with authority to say it is “bad” to kill people and take action for it, I am now even less optimistic about the outcome of this “peace process”, however, I still try my best to appreciate the way we have come so far.

PKK, theoretically opposed fascism and aggressive nationalism, fighting against forced and systematic assimilation of the Kurdish culture. The result: now they face an even higher level of nationalism in the public sphere, despite the point of communication we achieved after three decades. As far as the “negotiations” are promising in many ways, now the non-Kurd public is more discriminative and judgmental against the Kurdish population.

Before the PKK, there were problems of assimilation and issues with the recognition of Kurds’ natural rights. After the point we are on after three decades, even if we saw that we can at least try to solve problems with “communication”, there are still controversial trials, where thousands of people are labeled terrorists because of their fashion choice, or the books they read. I hope this “process” will help them in the future, too.

These are the things any guy on the streets will tell you. The republican/nationalist people have another opinion about the issue: we thought terrorism would achieve nothing, but now they actually achieved it. Contrary to common belief on the subject, Öcalan’s latest statement and that he can now give such statements show us that the situation is just the opposite. We have been at a point which you might call a dead end, or an infinite loop. While there was still violence going on, verbal communication did not seem possible, and it was not. Now we can at least clearly see that this is the only way it can be done. I think Öcalan also sees that this is the only way. While both the state and the PKK kept saying “THEY should be the ones to stop killing first”, the process was going nowhere. I think this is the whole truth we can see behind Öcalan’s latest statement: violence just does not work. The sentence is correct for both sides. Always trying to prove a point by shooting at and bombing each other have not worked so far, and there is no reason to think it will work in the near future. Öcalan, being considered as a party in this process, perceived that this was the only way he could get at least some of the things the PKK wanted to achieve under –and after- his leadership. If the armed conflict went on, there were two possibilities:

The scenario where the Turkish army keeps working on its operations, while the PKK keeps attacking military patrols and blowing up places. More and more people die for nothing.

The scenario where it has gone so far, a civil war breaks out. Even if it ends later, there might be nothing left to claim.

This, my friends, is how the “process” shows us no party in these talks thinks violence can solve things anymore.

It is a little different for the Justice and Development Party. It is now known by everyone that the Prime Minister has plans for a presidential system. Kurds, a significant ratio of whom voted for the JDP in the last elections, are the only ones he can gain over the next years. The interesting thing about the ruling party is that almost everyone else hates them enough to eat their children alive instead of voting for them. This is why the J. D. Party recently stopped “wasting time” on telling them they are part of the public, too. Instead, the Prime Minister openly says “I don’t care about your vote.” Yes, openly. The government knows it cannot utilize the votes of Alevites, republicans, homosexuals, most non-Muslims, etc. So, the “state” by its physical form wants to face forward in history, and leave the struggle-filled past behind. If this peace process is successful, this government will be the first ones to discuss the things that cannot even be suggested for discussion (this actually is present in the Turkish legal system), and this will raise their image. It seems there is an idea like “we should get it over with and avoid dealing with it again later, maybe focus on other things”, with an additional disappointment about a problem approached with the same point of view over and over, therefore not yet solved.

Especially on the internet, it is really hard to pick reasonable comments on the subject among thousands of people shouting at each other while strongly opposing, swearing, drooling over, but we can say: even this step is brilliant, and we could not have even guessed it a few years ago, even if there is a hidden agenda behind it, like the republicans would say. If there actually is an agenda we do not know of, it will have to come out soon, and if it is “bad”, we can react to it “then”. It is no use to pick up our knives and prepare for battle over a suspicion. For the apparent problems, of course, we have the right to reach “now”. Nothing should be opposed or supported without deep consideration. Cats listen, dogs smell, people talk. This is what we have done best so far. I want to believe that we can go on doing this.

The major problem about Öcalan’s statement is the emphasis on religion. In short, Öcalan said “we are brothers”. But this speech is not anything new. We heard it many times. Even the ultra-nationalist party MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) and its supporters have countlessly said: “Turks and Kurds are brothers” and we got smiles on our faces. However, then they added the line: “but we are the older brothers and we decide for everyone, as being Turkish is so cool and fancy and far better than anything.” Just alike, Öcalan added “people with different ethnicities have lived on this land together for centuries under the roof of Islam. We can do it again.” Well, if this is the end of it for the whole process, this means we had to be Turkish for years, now we have to be Muslim-Turks or Muslim-Another. Therefore, this is not suggesting freedom of identity, this just adds another word (Muslim) in front of every identity and says “you can be Muslim-anything!” Did all those people die for this? I do not want to believe so. If the purpose of the Kurdish movement was to remove all forced identities and bring the freedom of the “cultures other than the oppressive Turkish culture”, why are we bringing another oppressive forced-identity. So, Muslim Turks and Muslim Kurds are really brothers now. What will happen to atheists, Alevites, Christians, etc.? I will always be waiting for the days we will achieve something in this country without always leaving some people out. I do not know if those days will come, of if I will be able to see such days. So, while you are anticipating Öcalan’s statement with joy and hope, think about the “details”, because the devil is in there somewhere. I wonder how Öcalan supporters who like him, but not worship anything he says, will react to another forced identity, while trying to purge the previous one.

If we really had to think about two ethnicities here, we could say both Turkish and Kurdish people are mostly conservative, especially about your beliefs. So, if such a statement like the above is going to be taken seriously and be achieved(!), we will face another “Thankfully, I am a Turk”-like behavior: “Thankfully, I am a Muslim.” There will be discussions like “it is not a discriminating statement, it is like whatever you are, your main identity is Muslim,” or “we are not judging people by their beliefs, but being a Muslim is just better. I am not saying being another thing is worse, I am just saying being a Muslim is better.” For the readers who have no idea how Turkish political issues work: yes, it has all happened. Just change the word “Muslim” with “Turk.” Can you see a clear future with this kind of a plan? Well, I do not. While Kurds mostly think the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) has done well in recovering Kurds from the ethnicity and identity-related problems they face in the public, when combined with the supporters of the government, Turkey will face a greater challenge in terms of human rights and freedom. I would like to think of this statement as Atatürk’s statement “Guys, we should save the Caliph” to gain support for his cause, before abolishing the Caliphate for the new republic, and I am happy that at least we can talk about such things. Well, we cannot talk about many things nowadays, but it is the subject of another article.

At the end of this process, I hope we will not face the same problem with different identity structures and actors over and over again. I will repeat my sentence above to conclude this article: cats listen, dogs smell, people talk.

Read it on Anatolia Daily

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