Long live free and united Balochistan

Long live free and united Balochistan

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What do Kurds want?

Orhan Kemal Cengiz

As we saw with the recent Nevruz incidents, there is tremendous tension in southeastern Turkey that is just waiting for the right time to be exploited. Any solution to the Kurdish question seems to be far away right now. My intention in this piece, though, is not a lengthy analysis of the Kurdish question, nor to explain the obstacles, which are so obviously numerous.

The Kurdish question will inevitably be raised to the top of Turkey’s political agenda as we come close to the general elections this summer. So again and again, we will all be forced to revisit this question and try to look at it from different angles in the near future.

As of today, when we talk about the Kurdish question in Turkey, we also talk about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). A friend of mine, a local politician from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has told me her observations on how ordinary Kurds’ perceptions of the PKK has changed over time. My friend, the CHP politician, looks at the Kurdish question from a position that is quite close to the Kemalist elites’ point of view. Therefore, I found it quite interesting to learn about her observations on the changing psychology of Kurdish people, who she is somehow close to. The following are direct quotations from the letter my friend sent to me. She is talking about her observations on a Kurdish lady, to whom she refers as Belma. Let’s read the observations of a local CHP politician on the changing mood of Kurds:

“I was alarmed when I realized that Belma had remained silent in the face of negative assessments I had made about PKK terror or Abdullah Öcalan over recent years. It is clear that she did not approve of my expressed opinions, and it was clear that in some way and to some extent she had started to see some justice in an organization that uses violence. Most likely, she was embarrassed by this emotion and this general stance. In the end, she was not the sort of person who would normally accept acknowledging as correct a vision that sees it as legitimate in certain cases to kill others, but somehow, in some way, the PKK militants had managed to create a sense in her that they were somehow representing her.

“I was filled with curiosity. I had to be able to speak to her about this topic. We started speaking, and while at first she did not want to discuss any of this, a bit later, she started to explain how things were:

‘You are not aware of it, but for us, life here [in Antalya] has become much more difficult. Every day at work I hear nonstop invectives flung at me. They behave as though I personally murdered all the soldiers killed in the line of duty. You never know how sentences that begin with the words “All the Kurds” are going to end. We are labeled as everything, from being murderers, to thieves and simply being dishonorable. At first I blamed the organization we all know about [the PKK], seeing them as being solely responsible for all these developments. Then I realized that the same state to which I pay taxes has not taken even one step when it comes to basic human rights for Kurds. It is not an accepted thing, that Kurdish citizens are in fact Kurdish. So I began to feel unease. In the end, I am a Kurd. I didn’t choose to be a Kurd. I do not want to feel bad or feel guilty for being Kurdish. I said to myself, the state cannot do anything because of terror, it does not want to lose its legal authority, and if there were no terror, there would definitely be steps taken forward.

Then the PKK leader was captured, terrorism was minimized, but the state continued, this time focusing on arguments over primary and secondary identities, saying to all Kurds, “You are Turkish, you need to be proud of this.” Actually though, the state is the most advantageous structure in the nation when it comes to winning the favor of the Kurds. Is it really that difficult to say, “You are Kurdish, and we respect this, we are all equal citizens of Turkey”? Is it really that difficult? What about teaching Turkish to children who don’t know Turkish by starting off with reading and writing in Kurdish? Or allowing for two or three hours of Kurdish a week. Would all hell break loose were there to be municipal services for those who don’t speak Turkish, or if Kurdish were to be used alongside Turkish? Which century are we living in after all? We are not still living in the era of TRT-1 joint broadcasting … there are many Kurdish channels available on satellite TV. There are tens of thousands of Kurdish Internet sites. There are millions of Kurds living in Syria and Iraq. OK, so we used to call ourselves the “mountain Turks,” but what, are they also mountain Turks? For years and years certain people have been asserting that if Kurds do not somehow accept that they are Turks, if they insist that they are Kurdish, we will be divided as a nation. But actually, this current path is how we will be divided. Why is it so important whether someone is Turkish or Kurdish? I never used to be interested in these questions. I don’t know why, but in recent years I have begun to watch Kurdish TV channels, to check Kurdish Internet sites, even though I don’t know the language that well. And not because I feel any sympathy for the PKK, because in the end they are an authoritarian, oppressive and deadly organization. [But] because of my own anger with the state and insensitive Turks; when the topic of the PKK arises I prefer to make no comments either way regarding the organization. What’s more, I am quite sure that no reasonable Kurd really feels any great urgency about autonomy, federations, two official languages or any of this. No, it is just enough that we all accept one another as we are.’”

Even these few paragraphs provide an idea of how the Kurdish question reached this gangrenous point. The Kurdish lady concludes her remarks on quite a positive note. I wish her optimism was contagious in this regard and we could see some steps in the right direction soon.

*Published in Turkey's TODAY'S ZAMAN on March 25.


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