Now our officials and commentators are saying that they do not have a problem with the Kurds but that they are concerned about the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syria. While I share these concerns to a certain extent, I am not fully satisfied that it is only about the PKK. Would we still be feeling all right and content if the PKK was not involved in the Syrian Kurdish issue and our ally Barzani’s men or entirely indigenous local Kurdish actors were trying to increase their autonomy in northern Syria? I am not sure. Would the reactions of our officials, commentators and media be the same if instead of the Kurds, some Turkmen were trying to declare independence in the very same region? Of course not. This is understandable to a certain extent but in this case we should not keep boasting that other powers are only looking after their interests and we are the only ones that care about virtue, morality and humanity in our relations with other countries, people and societies.
Yes, Turkey’s position towards Kurdish activities in Syria is understandable. To start with, Kurds in “northern Iraq” were able to call their government the “Kurdistan Regional Government” since unlike in Turkey, the K-word is not taboo on the other side of the fence. They can receive education in Kurdish, can give Kurdish names to their children, streets, parks and villages without any hassle. Nobody can deny that Kurds in Turkey will increasingly envy their Kurdish neighbors. Imagine the same thing taking place across the Syrian border, too. Since Turkish politics have been enslaved and enchanted by nationalism, instead of giving similar rights to our Kurds, the state is trying to prevent “bad” examples from emerging. This did not work in the Iraqi Kurdish case, and I do not think that it will work in the Syrian case, either.
Instead of wasting our energies with myopic nationalist short-term electoral gains, our politicians must, as soon as possible, start a “zero problems with Kurds and Kurdish neighbors” policy. If the overwhelming majority of the Kurds in Turkey are satisfied with their democratic rights, then instead of being afraid of the Kurds in our neighboring countries gaining rights, we would start looking at the issue of Kurds in the Middle East as part of our strategic depth policy. I am not denying the possibility that granting more rights to the Kurds could pave the way for their eventual independence, but we must also see that not granting them these rights would make this outcome inevitable given the conditions in the region. We must give up employing the PKK terrorism as a pretext of our nationalist policies. It is not rocket science to know that while handling the terrorist issue, the majority of Kurds who do not sympathize with the PKK could be treated as equal citizens. Otherwise, we will not only lose our soft power but we will also have to utilize hard power, which simply means the end of soft power. Moreover, our foreign policy rhetoric will become less and less convincing.