Democratic Society Party, or DTP, leader Ahmet Türk argues that a cultural and political approach to the Kurdish problem is not only obligatory for a solution, it is the only way before the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, will lay down its arms. But the "tutelage regime" in Turkey is a big obstacle in the way of any political attempt, Türk claims
Guns and violence serve neither the state’s effort to challenge Kurdish nationalism, nor efforts by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to impose its own political will, in the view of the leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish political party.
"Bombs do not solve anything," said Ahmet Türk, leader of the Democratic Society Party, known by its acronym of DTP. His comments came in an exclusive interview with the Turkish Daily News.
Turk shared his views in the wake of recent urban bombings in Güngören and Izmir that have renewed debate over the outlawed PKK and policies to combat its embrace of terror. Although the organization has not assumed responsibility for the bombings, the timing is widely interpreted as retaliation against the Turkish military’s heavy air strikes in morthern Iraq.
Türk and his party members have been broadly criticized for their refusal to label the PKK a terrorist group and the party faces a resulting indictment that may force its closure.
Türk, however, argued that the tipping point towards a non-violent solution to the Kurdish problem is the state’s attitude towards Kurds. "We openly tell the PKK to disregard arms as a means to obtain rights. But of course, there is a societal reality. Kurds will react to policies based on a denial of their identity and their cultural demands," he said. "As long as the state does not change those policies, it cannot reduce the influence of the PKK on people. You can not make the PKK believe that arms are unnecessary."
Türk reiterated that dialogue was the solution to problems "within Turkey’s borders." It is mostly the task of the government and the state to end the problem, he believes, but he has sent messages to the PKK as well. "We must act in such a way as to make even the PKK think of the Turkish Republic as its own country, and see that it must act accordingly in face of a new approach. Without this logic, forging a common dialogue and drawing a roadmap has been impossible."
Violence can never serve the aims of the PKK, says Türk, insisting that they be more open to dialogue. "We tell PKK that they will achieve nothing, even if they fight for five more years."
‘Democratic autonomy to ease the pain’
Türk points to different approaches to minority cultures around the world, citing Spain as an example. The solution lies in forming a consensus among political parties and developing a model particular to Turkey, he said, offering a solution based on three points: the recognition of the Kurdish identity and implementation of its culture, the free use of Kurdish culture as a language of education and a democratic autonomous administration.
"A solution must have these as its starting point," Turk said.
All political leaders who have promised a new approach to the Kurdish problem have soon backpedaled, Türk charged and he made particular reference to a promise from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for $12 billion worth of investment in the southeastern region of Turkey. Similar sentiments were echoed by Mesut Yilmaz, former prime minister of the Motherland Party, or ANAP, when he announced that the "road to the European Union passes through Diyarbakir." Türk points out that "this is not something about individuals." Rather, he argued, that the politics of the Kurdish issue have assumed the nature of "tutelage" that makes little room for the views of Kurds themselves. Recurrent defaults to the we-know-best nature of tutelage politics has undermined the credibility of many politicians, he argued.
"Only democratization and increased civilian power in Turkey can accomplish a final settlement of the Kurdish problem," he said. Türk called for greater democratization of the powerful National Security Council, which while nominally under civilian control, makes policy through the military. He said Parliament must show that this is not the country of elites, who abuse their position.
"Politicians in Turkey have always compromised (themselves) to elites who think of themselves as masters of the state," he said.
‘Expulsion of the DTP will backfire’
The DTP remains under the cloud of a closure case in the Constitutional Court, after the party was accused of providing logistical support and nurturing ties with the PKK.
Should the DTP be ousted from Parliament, conditions will become even more critical, according to Türk. "If the DTP is closed down, Kurds will perceive themselves to be unwanted people and this will aggravate the impasse. The DTP is an expression of a mission. It is insistent upon the democratic solution to the Kurdish problem. Government and the state must look for dialogue and compromise. If not, a disregarded DTP will not have a chance to influence the Kurds," Türk said. "The court did not shut off the AKP, and we are happy for it. But now the AKP must pass the law that became the subject of the closure case. It cannot ignore others after it is saved."
‘The AKP can only dream of Diyarbakir’
Local elections will be held in March 2009 and Erdogan seems determined to take the southeastern province of Diyarbakir. Türk only laughs at Erdogan’s desire. "We do not have the slightest concern for Diyarbakir. We will be stronger than we were in (last year’s) local elections," Türk said.
He also left the door ajar for an election alliance with unnamed political actors or parties."There are many Kurdish voters in Izmir," he said, referring to a city long a stronghold of the main opposition Peoples’ Republican Party or CHP. "We have significant vote potential in Izmir that may change the fate of Izmir. This may have an impact on the municipality. We will come up with a formula."
Türk was critical, however of the CHP: "The CHP is never a social democratic party. Today, The CHP is a chauvinist nationalist and racist party. The CHP has a narrowly nationalistic view of the problem and denies Kurds identity and culture."
On the continuing controversy of the so-called "Ergenekon gang", a still shadowy prosecution that has arrested dozens on charges of a broad nationalist conspiracy to oust the ruling AKP by provoking a military coup, Turk predicted much is still to come to light. Unsolved murders and other crimes will ultimately be proven, he said.
"We need to look under the mountain to reveal the Ergenekon gang in its full extent," said Türk.