July 03, 2015

Can Kurds rely on the Turkish state?

14 October 2011, Friday / ORHAN KEMAL CENGİZ,
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The Kurdish question and the positions of political parties with regard to the conflict are becoming increasingly confusing and complex with every passing day.

Is it the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that killed the peace process by suddenly increasing the violence? Or is it this government that is blocking the peace process by not having taken the bold steps needed to make real progress? As happens in all long, sustained battles and disputes, these questions have no simple answers.

In this article, though, my intention is to look at something deeper: the psychological make up of many Kurds in Turkey that creates popular support for the PKK. This psychological factor also creates one of the biggest obstacles in the peace process. I think this is a question as to the reliability of the Turkish state in the eyes of the Kurds.

I have thought long and hard on this and it suddenly popped into my mind again as I was reading a long letter written by Murat Karayılan, a PKK leader, to Ahmet Altan, the editor-in-chief of the Taraf daily. Karayılan, in the middle of his letter, states: “In every stage of history, the fooling and deception of the Kurdish people by the hands of the state have practically become fate. As such, is not the saying I heard from the elders in my village when I was very young very interesting? “Dewlet be ker be jî xwe lê meké ” (don't mount the state, even if it is a donkey). We can also never forget the words of Seyit Rıza, the leader of the Dersim rebellion, the last Kurdish rebellion before our time: “I wasn't able to cope with your deception so let this be a lesson to me, and I did not kneel before you, so let that be a lesson to you.” These words have formed the conclusion derived from life experience as well as the Kurds' being continually deceived by the state.”

Karayılan is trying to explain why the PKK is not willing to lay down its arms. To be honest, I do not think this is the only reason for the PKK to resist disarmament. It has quite different reasons as well. The hawks of the PKK feed themselves with all these conflicts.

I think what Karayılan said goes much further towards explaining popular support for the PKK. Kurds do not have confidence in the Turkish state, and this lack of confidence has a long history in Turkey. Since the establishment of the Turkish Republic, no Kurdish demand has been taken into consideration and Kurds have only come to attention when they stage uprisings, all of which have been suppressed in quite a bloody way.

Look at the last three decades in Turkey. Kurdish villages were burnt down. Their children were kidnapped and killed. Their loved ones went missing. Thousands upon thousands of Kurds were tortured. Do we now see a state that confronts this past openly and honestly? Do we see a state that apologizes to its citizens for all of these terrible things that happened? I do not have the slightest suspicion of the goodwill this government has towards solving the Kurdish question, and I have welcomed all the positive steps they have undertaken. However, I do not think this government has ever appreciated the gravity of this problem of trust. What Karayılan refers to is the collective subconscious of the Kurdish people of Turkey, who have always felt abused and deceived. Unless a government does something about this collective subconscious, there will never be basic trust in the state, which is the most basic foundation of any peace process in any country. Because of this collective subconscious, the PKK will never completely lose support from the Kurdish people, no matter what kind of terrible things they do.

So, what we basically need to change is the relationship between the state and the Kurds in Turkey. A first step would be an honest, open apology to all Kurds for all of the terrible things they have suffered. This apology should be followed by justice in which the perpetrators are tried for their true crimes: destroying villages, kidnapping, torture and the other endless crimes they committed. Without healing these wounds, we will always be prone to disruptions of the peace process in Turkey.

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