The “hot summer” which I forecast in my article on June 14 has arrived. One can dwell upon the technical and security aspects of the dramatically escalating warfare between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the army units, mourn the casualties and scrutinize the armed forces’ efficiency and its possible mistakes. But this will be of no use.
The escalation marks an end to the so-called Kurdish initiative, pulling Turkey again into a maelstrom of more hatred, sharper nationalism, polarity and mistrust -- into a possible deadlock in politics. What is worse, the severe increase of the bloody PKK attacks come in an already venomous atmosphere in which the domestic crisis between the government and the high judiciary is climbing to its peak, the prospects for further reform are uncertain and the developing rift between Israel and Turkey raises alarm signals.
The opposition, bloodthirsty as always in the aftermath of the casualties here and there in the Southeast, cries, “Turkey has become politically unmanageable.” In the land of misdeed, politics in general has remained a fruitless shouting match, in which cynicism has turned every problem and disagreement into a weapon. In the land of misdeed, the government has showed hesitation in the major, critical moments and caused concern for its occasional erratic or distracted behavior in crucial matters, while the entire opposition has used every opportunity for overreacting in an attempt to get rid of it, not showing any concern at all for the fact that the undemocratic forces within the bureaucracy, having regrouped, continue to undermine legislative processes for reform and change.
The spilling of blood means we return to the real agenda. What went wrong with the Kurdish initiative, people ask. Well, many things. When it was announced last August by the government, it was saluted as a groundbreaking moment and it not only raised the expectations of the violence-weary Kurds and Turks to new heights but the seemingly synched announcement of dealing with non-Muslim minority issues did the same.
But the latter is a relatively minor matter compared with the Kurdish issue, which burns with its urgency. So, as the non-Muslims were left alone with their silent patience, the “Kurdish process” was delicately followed. The reactions of the opposition were predictable and therefore it was presumed that the government had calculated its moves carefully and would show true resolve.
But, as the road map of the process proved to be rather blurred (because soon the process turned into a series of search conferences and meetings), the behavior of the Kurdish politicians became less than promising. The Democratic Society Party (DTP), the political wing of the PKK, showed serious cracks at the top and as precious time was lost during the fall, the maximalist viewpoints of the PKK line -- such as direct negotiations with Abdullah Öcalan or “commanders of the PKK” -- dominated the party line. DTP deputies en masse openly praised the violence of the PKK and declared it sublime -- while the poorly coordinated return of some PKK militants as “victorious war heroes” through the Habur gate provoked the fury of the Turks in the West, presenting the opposition great momentum.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) started to hesitate, as the polls showed some considerable losses of support. A severe blow added to the hesitation at the end of last year, when the top courts closed the DTP and banned two of its moderate leaders -- Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk -- from political activity. Kurds have chosen, gradually, to take to the streets. Stone-throwing children turned into a huge legal problem.
The rhetoric of the DTP’s successor party, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), has become harsher and even more openly pro-PKK. Disappointments crystallized when the judiciary started to take a hard-line: Freedom of expression became an issue, as the massive Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) operation led to arrests and a harsh indictment against already detained local Kurdish politicians. The final blow was a trial started against those militants who had returned from the Kandil Mountains and were promised immunity before they re-entered Turkey. Meanwhile, some wise Kurdish politicians such as Orhan Miroğlu warned that the PKK meant serious business when it issued threats of an “all-out war.”
Turks and Kurds, some of whom apparently still have not had enough of war and human tragedy, may be to blame, whether they are politicians or not, and certainly the PKK, which now wages a meaningless war which only serves to paralyze an already-damaged politics in Turkey. If or when a new emergency law is introduced, the only winners will be the PKK and those deep in Ankara who work to keep the status quo. Freedom will suffer and the upcoming elections will be a feast for those who enjoy ultra-nationalist rhetoric.
Has Turkey lost its Kurds? Not yet, but it is coming closer and closer to that point. It may be reversed only when the politicians -- the government -- realize that delaying bold decisions and postponing the problems are not options. It will bury the misfortune which darkens this country.