Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, January 1st, 2013
Grant Kurds an Autonomous State in Southeast Turkey
Guest Opinion for Syria Comment
by Evin Cheikosman, a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Syrian-Kurd who plans to pursue graduate studies in Germany or Turkey.
TO: Recep Tayipp Erdoğan, Prime Minister, Turkey
Honorable Prime Minister Erdoğan, as you are aware, the long-standing Kurdish struggle for autonomy has remained a constant issue in Turkish national politics. Kurdish history is dominated by the unending fight for self-determination and recognition of a distinct ethnic identity within the Turkish community. However, Kurds have continuously been marginalized within Turkish borders, a place they have long considered home. Mr. Prime Minister, you’ve been in office since 2003, accepting the responsibility to safeguard the interests of the Turkish citizens, but what about the Kurds? Indeed you have mentioned occasionally that the Kurdish issue needs to be resolved and that you are in the process of launching initiatives to meet the demands of the Kurdish people. However, I have yet to see great improvement or a genuine fulfillment of those promises you made during your first few years in office.
There are 15 million Kurds in Turkey but they continue to face daily persecution, intimidation, and subjugation. In this day and age these unjust acts towards Kurds are unacceptable. Mr. Prime Minister, Turkey’s government continues to fuel the long standing war between Turks and Kurds. But this is not a war between good and evil as it has been depicted throughout Turkish-Kurdish history; it’s a war between right and wrong. What’s right is that human rights and freedom of mankind is a right of all persons, what is wrong is prohibiting that right and oppressing those who demand it.
I am writing to you adding my voice to that of Kurds who should be granted full autonomy in southeastern Turkey. The Kurds have their own language, distinct cultural traditions, identity, values, and have a deep attraction to southeast Turkey. Within this context, the Turkish government should indeed allow for a separate federal Kurdish state within Turkey. Kurdistan will manage their domestic affairs but under Turkish law. In this manner, Turkey will not lose its sovereignty and Kurds will be granted a state of their own. Kurds are a proud and independent people, who like all ethnic groups seek freedom to speak their language and enjoy basic human rights; something that Quebec in Canada and the Basque region in Spain have.
Thus, my opinion would be to revamp talks with Kurdish and Turkish leaders and representatives. At this conference, Kurds should be granted an autonomous Kurdistan state under Turkish legislation, a full ratification of the Turkish constitution should be established in line with EU standards, and PKK militants who did not commit crimes should be granted amnesty and allowed to integrate into society; this would eliminate time wasted on civil trials.
Mr. Erdoğan, you have noted on numerous occasions that entry into the European Union is a top priority. However given the endless list of human rights abuses that Turkey has committed, accession into the EU will continue on its unsuccessful path. Thus by granting autonomy to the largest minority in the country, EU membership will not be the only door of opportunity opening to Turkey. Mr. Prime Minister, it is important to start looking at the Kurdish people as an asset to Turkish-Kurdish prosperity; not as PKK militants. It is also worth noting Turkeys’ current annual trade of 10 billion USD with Kurdistan Iraq. A decision made by the Turkish government, realizing the extent of change and wealth that investment in Kurdistan Iraq would bring to Turkey. Thus today Kurdistan Iraq is Turkey’s second largest trading partner. Just imagine what a Kurdistan Turkey would do for the country.
Turkey has neglected to fully resolve the Kurdish issue and as a result Kurds are turning to acts of protest, damaging Turkey’s reputation as a young democratized state. According to BBC, Kurdish prisoners in various jails in Turkey were not too long ago rejecting to eat solid food, demanding Turkey to allow Kurdish in education and legal systems. Protesters also called for the release of PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who was captured and sentenced to life in solitary confinement (Kurds Clash with Turkish Police over hunger strikers). It is events like these that are brewing at the core of Turkey and soon it will explode into a secular war. Turkey has made minor changes to Kurdish human rights including free publication of newspapers, TV, and radio in Kurdish. This is fine, but not enough. Kurds want full equal rights to be Kurds in Turkey and have their own autonomous state within the country.
Conflicts are already evident in Syria where Kurds are organizing an army, aligning with the PKK, and preparing for an all out secular war after the fall of the Syrian regime. This is a historical opportunity for the Kurds to finally achieve independence and they are working unitarily to make a “Kurdistan” in Syria a realization. If Kurds in Syria succeed, they will influence events to come in Turkey. You once stated, “I will never tolerate initiatives that would threaten Turkey’s security” (Hacaoglu). However by suppressing the Kurds and being unresponsive to their demands, such comments alone are threatening to Turkey’s security. People all over the world no longer fear their government, and as witnessed by the Arab Spring people aren’t afraid to rise up against their government.
Thus soon your government’s authority will diminish due to the emergence of Kurdish autonomy in Syria, which will lead to Kurds in Turkey to establish the same. This will result in more frequent acts of brutality and protest; the situation as a whole would prove disastrous for the nation. Turkey will suffer financially, death and casualties will be profound, and destruction insurmountable. By suppressing Kurds, Turkey is fueling Kurdish hostilities and motivating the possibility for a “Kurdish spring.”
Depending on how the prospects in Syria turn out, Turkey will be forced to face the Kurdish domestic issue and will have to accept the consequences of not working earlier and more diplomatically to solve it. Sooner or later, Kurds will achieve an autonomous Kurdistan in Turkey. Whether Turkey is willing to have a say in democratizing and easing this task is the real question.