Turkey and the Kurdish Issue

Turkey is right in the middle of a lot things... and plans to take advantage of that
Turkey is right in the middle of a lot things… and plans to take advantage of that

Former president Abdullah Gul, President Recep Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as leaders of the Justice and Development Party over the last decades have transformed Turkey into an economic and political powerhouse. Much remains to be done.

Turkey has gone from a country sinking in debt to a country thriving while its counterparts in Europe were sinking in debt and almost going bankrupt due the financial crisis. From a country ruled by the military to a country ruled by civilian government elected directly by the people. This represents a big achievement in a region ruined by military coup d’état.

However, this transformation is not enough while neglecting permanent and dramatic solution to the “Kurdish Issue”. The Justice and Development Party revolution fulfilled the “Development” part, but so far failed to fulfill the “Justice” part. And that requires bold steps to solve the “Kurdish Issue”.

It will do Turkey good – the country, the state and the people, Turkish and Kurds – for President Erdoğan to go to “Imrali Island Prison”, where the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan is held as the only prisoner on the island; free him and fly together to Diyarbakir and jointly declare to all of the citizens of Turkey that this is a new start, a new beginning for all of the people of Turkey. Turkey needs to be a country where Turkish citizens, ethnic Turks and ethnic Kurds and all other ethnic groups are equal citizens with equal rights to form a political party; to speak their own language and celebrate, not differences but, what unites them.

Turkey, like its neighbors Iraq and Syria, has experienced political and social violence in the late 1970’s, pitting extreme Right wing ultra nationalists and extreme Left wing, leaving thousands of dead and tens of thousand injured, in what was termed as “low level civil war”.

A robust and thriving culture in Kurdistan
Kurd women

Turkey went through many military coups and for a long time, the military were the real and true rulers of the country. Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, leader of the Democratic Party, together with two other cabinet ministers were hanged by the military on 17 September 1961, shortly after the military junta took over the government in a military coup d’état.

Political reforms were slow to take place, always wary of the “military”, but that is over now with the “military” under the control of the civilian authorities — a major achievement, yet to be experienced in neighboring Arab countries like Syria and Iraq, where the military and “mokhabarat” rule every aspect of life from birth certificate to janitorial jobs, all requiring “security clearance”.

Additionally, Turkey was able to manage its runaway inflation, bringing it down from the triple digits to close to single digits. Turkey paid off its debt to the World Bank and the IMF. Turkey’s GDP skyrocketed, reaching 1,426 trillions and exports to the neighbor countries, including central Asia republics reaching over $125 billion in exports.

More important, Turkey has the highest per capita income of all the Middle East countries, with the exception of the Gulf States and Israel. While Turkey’s per capita income increased to $10,130, other Arab countries like Jordan ($4,370), Egypt ($2,800), Iraq ($4,470) all remained stagnant, if not regressive.

Turkish products and services from home appliances, to clothing, food, and construction are seen and sold all over the Middle East from Morocco to Kazakhstan. Turkish businessmen and Turkish Airlines are seen from San Paulo to Tokyo to Beijing, to Amman, Riyadh and Casablanca.

Hagia Sofia is a former Greek Orthodox basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul
Hagia Sofia is a former Greek Orthodox basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul

Though the domestic, political and ideological situation remains tenuous between “secular parties” and the governing coalitions, the Justice and Development Party holds the largest block in the Parliament (312/535) followed by the Republican Peoples Party (125/535), Nationalist Movement Party (52/535).

The fact that Turkey with a “Kurdish” population of 14.6 million is represented by one member of the parliament sitting as representative of the Democratic Regions Party shows the immediate and urgent need to tackle the “Kurdish Issue” head on.

Mr. Erdoğan, his government and the people of Turkey are strong enough, with solid political and economic institutions, confident enough and can take the “risks”, and should take the steps to release Abdullah Ocalan — which would be a reminder to the world of the time and date when de Clerk of South Africa released the late Nelson Mandela from prison.

With Mr. Ocalan free and out jail, and with the “Kurdish Issue” resolved and out of the way, Turkey would be the nation that Mr. Erdoğan and Mr. Davutoğlu wish it to be. Turkey needs to recognize the citizen rights of the Kurds and to support their language, culture and full political, economic and social partnership in the Republic of Turkey. Switzerland is an excellent model to follow.

Mr. Erdoğan can follow the example set by the former President of South Africa F.W. de Klerk when, on February 11, 1990, he freed the late Nelson Mandela from the prison on Robben Island after 27 years as prisoner.

Confident leadership and a confident nation can and always should risk peace. Let us hope Mr. Erdoğan rises to the occasion.

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  1. Toby.. salam… have you ever thought why Bashar Assad air force only target Syrian cities for its constant “explosive barrels bombs” and never dropped one barrel bomb on top of ISIS positions… One has to wonder what is the alliance between ISIS and the Syrian regime and why did Assad allow the ISIS to control such a large track of Syrian territories.. allowing ISIS to move to Western and Northern Iraq. The Ba’athist of Saddam are taking the lead with Israel supplying much of the weapons to ISIS… Try to explain how a rag tag army can take over 1/3 of Syria and 1/3 of Iraq… One has to always question things..

  2. I do appreciate the comments and feed backs. No I am not shying away from the issue of Syria. I have a consistent opinion of Arab dictatorships whether military, secular, religious, or nationalists… they all failed the Arab world. The Assad regime was from day one a dictatorial regime, a Ba’athist regime, and a family business that jailed hundreds of thousands, executed tens of thousands, and murdered 38,000 in Hamah in 1982. Served as “rendition” torturing suspects on behalf of US, protected Israeli borders and kept it silent for since 73. I simply do not buy the idea or the slogans of “secular” and “nationalistic”. I do not believe presidents should serve for life. Bashar ruined Syria just to stay in power. The opposition made a big mistake when relied in US for support knowing well that the US prefer a dictatorship that can protect Israeli borders than a democracy. Israel and the US both achieved the same goal, a ruined Syria that will never pose a threat to Israel.

  3. You Mr.Sami missed the main issue regarding Turkey. No achievement of Nation or leader no mather what , can excuse the atrocities, terror, mass murder and total destruction of Ancient Syria and Iraq partly in hands of Wahabi -Donmeh Power house of these Mongolian Turks. Hitler also had economic achievement. Israel is also a successful economy.

    I was before skeptical about Armenian genocide, but what Turkey done in Syria, to a fellow muslim nation, it beyond any doubt convinced me that this genocide has really happened. We should not forget that Turks are the ancestors of Chen Ghiz khan, one of the most evil creature of human history.

  4. Turkey has more problems than just Kurds. Equally large is Turkey’s Alevi religious minority (somewhat related to the Shia & to Syria’s Alawites), Alevis also suffering discrimination. And Kurds have been oppressed so long, their national dream with fellow Kurds in adjacent Iran, Iraq & Syria, will not go away now. Turkey’s civilian-military, secular-Islamist, and Islamist-extremist struggles are not healed either.

    Turkey is engaged in horrifically aggressive war-making in Syria (see Ziad Fadel’s Syrian Perspective site), in an ugly Turkish – Saudi – Israeli alliance supporting Islamic State. Turkey is also beginning to crack economically, its prosperity fragile, based partly on debt & inflows which are reversing.

    Retired India Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar writes of a loose Turkey – Iran – Pakistan troika developing, displacing Saudis & Arabs as Muslim leaders. But with Nato fuelling chaos throughout Levant & South Asia … nothing is clear.

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