Friday, December 18, 2009

Doomsday scenarios for Copenhagen and Kurdish conundrum

The Constitutional Court, the highest court of Turkey, unanimously decided to ban the country's only pro-Kurdish party in Parliament because of its alleged terrorist links. “Democratization must go on” was the title of Cengiz Aktar's last column after this decision while he was eloquently summing up Turkey's adventure with the European Union membership process of the last decade. He suggests that since Turkey kept overlooking the mistakes it made in the last century, such as driving out the non-Muslim populations of Anatolia, it has not tried to draw lessons from them, and we are unsure today if it can deal with the apparent growing tensions between the Kurdish and Turkish segments of the country.
I think Aktar summarizes today's jitters very well. The democratization process, which started in December 1999, when the 15 member states of the EU decided to start official membership talks with Turkey, has now come to a crucial turning point. Around that time many commentators were arguing that this process of democratization might be very depressing for the country. However, myself, like many others, tried to enjoy the moment, instead of spoiling it by thinking how hard the process of open discussions would be for all of us, which we are witnessing today.
Reopening talks with the Kurdish population, giving the cultural and political rights they long deserve and taking the outlawed terror organization the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, or the discontent Kurdish wings into account, sooner or later were going to happen. Therefore, accusing the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, for opening Pandora’s box now, does not sound sincere nor does it help to make anything better. In other words, if the AKP had not tried to put the thorny issues into light now, nobody can be sure that those issues would visit Turkey's agenda at a better time than today.
From day one, I supported the AKP's democratization process, and argued that when the opposition forces were to be considered, AKP is the best alternative for a meaningful rapprochement with the Kurdish segment. However, I also put forward my own concerns over the capability of the AKP's leadership to handle this fragile process, for it seems it lacks the understanding of today’s modern concepts of civil liberties and of those of the coming age, which we have witnessed from its dealings with the freedom of expression to the right to privacy so far.
With these shortcomings of the AKP, a political force that let the genie out of the bottle, Turkey hits an intersection that it can no longer ignore or postpone in order to address some of the underlining reasons of today's tensions. The AKP has a couple of options while moving forward to deal with the Kurdish opening now. It will either try to play the democracy game, as it is played in Western democracies, to raise the whole society in accordance with basic human rights, or it will try to put the genie back in the bottle, which is ultimately a failing option. And this latter doomsday scenario would help to create a huge vicious circle, while the AKP will have to resort to a more nationalistic tone along with more disappointments coming from the EU.
Today, to carry Turkey into the new age as “one country,” democratic maturity is not only being asked from the AKP and the Turkish segment of the society, but the representatives of the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, also need to step up to address the issue more broadly along with millions of Kurdish people. Obama, while getting elected in 2008 as the American president, did not play the race card or the African-Americans’ grievances of the past. As a post-racial president he addressed the whole American nation, for it was the only way to heal some wounds, make real progress and get to where he is now. The representatives of the now-banned DTP have also two alternatives facing them while moving forward. They either will have to recognize some of the undemocratic rules of the Turkish political life and work relentlessly to overcome those rules and address the whole nation with others, or help to close the political channels and leave the matter to the streets to take over. I do not want to believe that Mr. Ahmet Türk, the former head of the recently banned DTP, and other officials of the same party, many of whom are now banned from political life for five years, wish to push this country to the edge of the cliff.
While the heads of governments are getting together in Copenhagen this week to decide the destiny of our earth and show their commitment that they want a better environment for future generations, the political figures of today's Turkey have to get together to display their commitment for “one Turkey.”
The climate experts state that the price of doing nothing in the fight to stop climate change is much higher than the cost of containing it now. Nicholas Stern, chair of Climate Change at the London School of Economics, states that the closing week of the Copenhagen summit must carry a message to voice support for the developing world to stop deforestation and promote new technologies to carry environmentally friendly approaches. Stern adds that the decade ahead of us is a crucial one to turn around high carbon emission, otherwise ongoing living habits that make petroleum-derived hydrocarbons even more expensive and continue to create a hostile environment, which will be unsustainable to live with seeing that the temperatures are expected to rise about 5 degrees before the end of the century. And this dramatic change will bring our world to uncharted territories that have never been seen in the past 30 million years.
Inaction regarding today's Kurdish problem in Turkey will also take the country into uncharted territories of a hostile environment. President Abdullah Gül's invitation for the political leaders to discuss rising tensions would be a good start to curtail the dangerous escalation and create a road map for the coming weeks. Turkey's political leaders must draw lessons from the latest news reports that show clashes between the ordinary people of the two segments of Turkey's society in the streets and start cutting back the “agitation emissions” they have been releasing for sometime. The temperature is rising in Turkey. And the worst part is that Turkey does not have another decade to bring it down.

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