Turkey's Kurdish conflict: pathways to progress
Hunger strikes in the prisons have brought the Kurdish question once more to the forefront of Turkey's politics. It is crystal clear that without resolving this issue the country will not normalize, as it continuously disrupts the process of democratization. Furthermore, it is also fueling societal tension and clashes between the Kurds and Turks, such as those that turned violent last week in Bursa, where one person was fatally injured.
No doubt the Kurdish question needs a political settlement. But before a settlement acceptable to both sides is reached, a strategy for the process has to be developed.

Kerem Yıldız, director of the Democratic Progress Institute (DPI), proposes a roadmap for the "negotiations." In an article titled "Turkey's Kurdish Conflict: Pathways to Progress," Yıldız examines a number of possible steps to be taken to achieve a political solution.

For him, "the pertinent question concerns what needs to change in order for both sides to move beyond negative control (resulting in the blocking of progress and the souring of public opinion) towards positive mutual engagement and the idea of creating a shared plan for peace."

His starting point reflects a certain optimism: "While challenges abound, a solution to any conflict, no matter how long or intractable, is possible if the political will is present,"

In the Turkish case, from time to time it appears that "political will" exists, as demonstrated by the government's 2009 Kurdish initiative. But the complexities of the peace negotiation process and the difficulties of selling the end result to the Turkish public constrain the Turkish government.

The DPI's Yıldız explains the strategies for a sustainable and successful solution to the Kurdish question as follows:

"First, full recognition of human and citizen rights entrenched within a reformed constitution would give Kurds a legal and substantive place in Turkish society.

"Second, mutual and full recognition and reconciliation of historic events, experiences and differences between the Kurdish minorities and the state must be worked on to achieve a lasting resolution and healing on both sides. Crucially, reconciliation for past violent actions, amnesty for armed groups and an acceptance of previous mistakes by all sides. … Furthermore, relations between the government and the BDP [Peace and Democracy Party] must be improved and a shared vision for a Kurdish solution must be worked towards by all key actors in partnership.

"Third, the recognition and adoption of Kurdish civil, political, social and economic rights alongside Turkish demands is necessary to provide Kurds with the right to self-determination and freedom of expression…

"Fourth, models of decentralization as a means for a political solution should also be considered in seeking a solution. This process may take various different forms including devolution, federalism or a shared rights approach.

"Fifth, the recognition and acceptance of third-party assistance to advance the process of reaching a solution to the Kurdish question by all actors involved, where necessary and if desired, is crucial."

About the content of a possible solution, Yıldız rules out secession as "inapplicable." For him "a model more likely to provide a long-lasting solution in Turkey is that of devolution/decentralization."

Yıldız regards the Turkish state as "the main driver of change acting as a partner to Kurdish stakeholders." He places the main responsibility to proceed with a settlement on the Turkish state, as "the stronger side and the elected party must initiate progress and take the first step in helping to remove any deadlocks that present themselves in the path to progress."

I think that not only the Turkish government but also the Kurdish stakeholders, including the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), have responsibilities. They both have to reconsider their understanding of the problem and their strategies to end the crisis. Otherwise, the deadlock is unlikely to open and the suffering on both sides will continue.

İHSAN DAĞI (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-05 10:00:08
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