Archive for March 2013
It is not an exaggeration to say that the last two days have been of historic importance for Turkey. First, as anticipated, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan made a Nowruz declaration calling for a cease-fire and reconciliation with Turkey. Then today, in a quite unexpected turn of events facilitated by President Obama, PM Netanyahu of Israel apologized to PM Erdogan over the phone for the death of Turkish civilians in the Mavi Marmara incident.
The cease-fire declaration by Ocalan is an indisputably important gesture toward real, lasting peace between the Turkish government and its Kurdish minority. But the question remains will the Turkish government do its part to bring about this reconciliation? As I previously argued, I believe that PM Erdogan has the power to end the Kurdish insurgency. There have already been a number of articles which outline the obstacles which still must be overcome before the cease fire can be deemed a success. Factors such as disarmament and amnesty are certainly extremely important in the short term. However, the only way to ensure that the peace between Turks and Kurds lasts is to grant Kurds all of the political, cultural and linguistic rights that they demand, without exception. Any lingering rights issue has the potential to fester into renewed insurgency. Of course fully and legally acknowledging the rights of Turkeys’ Kurdish minority is not without its risks. Turkey’s violent and vocal far-right ultra-nationalists will never accept the right of non-Turkish and non-Sunni groups to live freely in Turkey. Turkey must carefully monitor these extremists to be sure they do not sabotage the peace process, but their reaction must not be given undo consideration. Turkey must continue to move forward in giving all its citizens equal rights even if there are groups that wish otherwise.
The apology from Israel is situated perfectly (perhaps purposely given the fact that Davutoglu and the Foreign Ministry were circumvented) to maximize Erdogan’s popularity and therefore his power to orchestrate the rapprochement between the Turkish government and the PKK. Some have worried that if Erdogan appeared too eager to placate the Kurds and Ocalan, he risked alienating his conservative Turkish base. However, the Israeli apology is the perfect bone to throw to his supporters. If Erdogan does not take advantage of this moment to do everything he can to ensure a successful peace process between Turkey and the PKK, then he truly never was committed to peace in the first place.