Mr. Demirtaş argues that the government should speak to the PKK about its violence and its eventual laying down of arms, but with regards to the Kurdish problem the government’s interlocutor is the BDP. While I do not fully agree with the second part, this is a good starting point, to say the least.
Mr. Demirtaş also proposes that the PKK is not the IRA nor is the BDP Sinn Fein. He is right. Many in Turkey have been unreasonably asking the BDP to put pressure on the PKK. Yet it is obvious that the PKK has the actual power and has been, to a great extent, playing the role of the puppeteer. As it is highly doubtful that the PKK will settle for less than an autonomous Kurdistan region in Turkey, it will be surprising if talking to the BDP bears any democratic fruit and more rights for the Kurds. Thus, instead of assigning the Kurdist BDP as the sole representative of the Kurds and the Kurdish problem, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government must remember that it has received about half of the Kurds’ votes and that all other non-AKP voters are also humans and full citizens of this country. So, without attaching the Kurdish problem to the Kurdists and the PKK, the government must recognize the much-awaited and widely discussed rights of Kurds. Reinstating Kurdish place names – for towns, for example -- allowing people to use Kurdish in hospitals and in some other official places and allowing education in Kurdish in addition to Turkish in at least elementary schools are some of these rights that could easily be given. Strengthening local governments by decentralizing Turkey will also help to improve our democracy and ameliorate the Kurdish problem. All these could be achieved without having a federal system or autonomous regions.
I am aware that the AKP has its own difficulties, dilemmas and shortcomings. It perceives that it has a Turkish problem, too. The AKP likes to take into account the numbers and figures. According to a recent survey conducted in Istanbul by Metropoll, more than 30 percent of AKP voters think there is no need for a new constitution, whereas in all other parties this figure is lower. According to the same survey, about 35 percent of AKP voters oppose the idea that people should be educated in their mother tongue provided that they must also learn Turkish. The AKP is well aware of this and is also well aware that whatever it does or does not do, at least 30 and even 40 percent of Kurds will continue to vote for it. So, it does not want to risk the Turkist votes. That is why before the June 12, 2011 elections, the AKP had a Turkish nationalist rhetoric.
However, leadership is required in these difficult and tough times. Like the above-mentioned numbers, there is also a case of other numbers, ostensibly simpler but actually much harder to deal with. Even though they are different, Kurdish, Kurdist and PKK problems are 3 in 1. In other words, they are all interlinked and intertwined, mutually reinforcing each other in a vicious cycle. If this vicious cycle continues, the AKP’s Kurdish powerbase will increasingly be Kurdist, paving the way for the strengthening of separatist ideas. If the AKP cares about this country more than it cares about its shortsighted election victories, then it must try to break this vicious cycle without delay. And the only way to do this is to increase Kurdish rights as soon as possible.