The political sphere in Turkey seems to have been gravely wounded this summer. And we should urgently rediscover ways in which we can dismantle this atmosphere of war.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government led the initiative to reform the debate over Kurdish identity. Following his "Kurdish opening" project, more and more politicians now talk openly about Turkey's Kurds and their suppressed political rights. Erdogan's government criticised Turkey's age-old politics of nationalism and pointed to the failures of the modernising ideals behind the nation state. Instead of nationalism we were offered a discourse of Islamic tolerance and Kurds were invited to be pious citizens of the country that pledged never again to discriminate against them.
However, Kurdish politicians in the [Peace and Democracy Party] believed that the discrimination was far from being over: it just took a different shape. Following last June's elections the independent Kurdish candidate Hatip Dicle was elected to parliament but was refused entry to Ankara because of a previous terror conviction. This resulted in a stalemate in Turkish politics – Kurdish politicians decided to protest against parliament. The conflict was further intensified by threats from the PKK's radical branch, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), to attack tourist locations and destroy as many Turkish soldiers and civilians as possible.
In this fragile state of affairs, Erdogan seems to be repeating the mistakes of his predecessors. He believes that the Turkish state apparatus is no longer an unjust and oppressive organisation, and that it will behave benevolently and altruistically to all those who observes its rules. Turkey's Kurdish population are not convinced. Erdogan needs to understand how his offerings of a tolerant but religiously ordered society might be unattractive to Kurdish people.
Turkey's Kurdish politicians, meanwhile, are not doing any better at improving the situation. Last weekend's bombing of a tourist beach in Antalya attests to the desperate state of Kurdish militants and Kurdish politicians took pains not to condemn the use of political violence when it comes from the Kurdish militants. Anti-militarists and socialists who sided with the [Peace and Democracy Party] are now irritated by their essentially religious and at times militarist discourse of martyrdom. Kurdish politicians don't sound terribly secular when they talk about glorious operations of liberation (that is, suicide attacks) against the military that laid the foundations of the PKK movement.
We should demand they go back to the parliament to fulfil their much-needed function of struggling for more political rights for the Kurds. This autumn will see the drafting of a new constitution: placing bombs under tourist beaches won't help Kurdish rights in the future. Both state and terrorist violence should be opposed by an anti-militarist movement calling for mutual dismantling of arms.
It is an appalling sight when politicians settle their disagreements at the expense of the lives of young soldiers. If Erdogan and his Kurdish counterparts want to leave a positive legacy, they need to put an end to this terrifying era of political violence. And the only means of achieving this will be by debating in the parliament buildings of Ankara, and not with adventures in the Quandil mountains.
This article was published on The Guardian website on August 31, 2011, and was one of the Editors' Picks.