Tuesday, 23 October 2012, 04:59 GMT
Turkey's never ending Kurdish question and the KRG


A number of young Kurds in a pro-PKK demonstration in Turkey./Photo by Mujgan Arpat

Globe Editorial
By Azad Amin

Central to the matter are disputes over territory and ownership of natural resources,

Since the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 following the demise of the Ottoman Empire, there has continuously been a "Kurdish question" not only at the centre of the politics of Turkey, but also as a fundamental aspect of the "Turkish psyche". The national identity of Kurds became polarized as the "other" in the process of forming a new Turkish national identity. In other words, the formation of a Turkish identity has been shaped intrinsically by the denial of a Kurdish national identity -- and this has been a major complicating factor in the intricate relations between Turkey and Kurdistan. Apart from a narrow band of informed discourse, the bulk of the discussion and argument in Turkey regarding to the Kurdish question shies away from really engaging with the question in any direct manner. This has resulted in a rather vulgar and shallow understanding of the question in Turkey,and unfortunately has also denigrated sensitivities to the issue among the Kurdish political elite and intelligentsia.

The so-called "Kurdish question" needs to be defined in relation to contemporary paradigms of modern political nationalism -- only then can appropriate solution(s) be proposed or contemplated. Without sufficient clarification, the issue is highly likely to fall by the wayside as a shallowly and unproductively discussed matter -- and this negligence will have serious consequences for both parties.

When closely considered, the "Kurdish question" is essentially a question of national sovereignty and territory; thus in essence it is a political issue relating to power and control. In itself it does not constitute an isolatedquestion, but rather is a national question.Without emphasis on itsnational implicationsthe significance of the issue loses its clarity.

Central to the matter are disputes over territory and ownership of natural resources, as well as questions about the sovereign rights of people to self-determination.The bulk of the discussion about Kurds living in Turkey has skirted around these central issues, and thus no serious solutions appear to be in sight.

It may be observed that one manner in which Turkey manages the "Kurdish question" within this shallow, simplified perspective is to reduce the question to a matter of dealing with "terror and security". This eclipses the key issues with a reactionary shroud and prevents them from being properly vocalized.It would appear that Turkey has so far been largely successful in this.

This explicitly signifies the character of Turkish politics vis-Ó-vis the Kurds and the Kurdish failure (particularly the politics of PKK) to liberate the Kurdish question from the paradigm of "terror and security". It explains why all of the attempts either by subsequent Turkish governments or by the PKK to address the matter have thus far been downplayed. The Turkish political establishment does not wish to elaborate on the Kurdish question as a political question; it aims to keep the issue within the sphere of manageable low-level military conflict. The manner in whichthe PKK directs its military activities is exactly what the Turkish establishment wishes for.

Within this vicious cycle of terror comes the complex relationship between Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government. The KRG particularly under the leadership of Nechirvan Barzani pays serious attention to develop good relations with Turkey. However the shadow of "terror" has always threatens and complicates this relation. The KRG has to carefully contemplate the nature of the Kurdish national question and thereby develop strategic policies accordingly. In an interview with the BBC Farsi Service, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani recently stated that Ankara should initiatenegotiations with the PKK, before asking it to lay down its arms in order to help precipitate a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question.

In the same interview Barzani defined the Kurdish question as an acutely political one, but not a military one. He further claimed that--it is not possible for the Turkish state to solve the problem by means of military operations. "Dialogue and negotiation" is the only way to come up with a solution to the Kurdish issue." Here is the dilemma that the KRG falls into: While Kurdish regional leaders, particularly President Masoud Barzani, insist that the question is political and requires a political solution, the Turkish establishment persists in separating theissue from its political significance. The situation is therefore in a state of deadlock.

Nechirvan Barzani's proposal regarding the solution of the Kurdish question pertains to "a ceasefire between the Turkish government and the PKK; improvement of Abdullah Ícalan's prison conditions; and a true dialogue to have the PKK lay down its arms". But his proposal cannot go further than wishful thinking,since the parties involved do not appear to have any intention of contemplating the issue as a political one.

It is quite clear that the Kurdish national question in Turkey is not going to be resolved directly by discussions between the Turkish establishment and the PKK, but rather will be brought into focus by wider regional developments and global power struggles in the Middle East. The manner in which the Kurdish nation finally assumes an independent existence will ultimately be decided by geopolitical factors that are currently far beyond its control.