Turkey’s Kurds: of roosters and men

THE KURDISH ISSUE continues to drag on in Turkey. After positive developments in June it appeared that at last the Turkish government may be making genuine attempts to address Kurdish concerns through a process of dialogue, a welcome change after decades of viewing the issue solely through the prisms of terrorism and separatism and seeking to pursue military ‘solutions’. The very persistence of the issue is evidence enough that a military approach hasn’t solved anything.

But finding a solution through dialogue has suddenly got a lot more complicated given recent events in Syria, where a Kurdish group, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), has claimed control of various towns near the Turkey-Syria border. I wrote a piece about it which was published earlier this week on openDemocracy. You can read my article here.

There is a Kurdish proverb, ‘when there are too many roosters, the village wakes up late’, meaning that the Kurds have been hobbled over the years by a profusion of home-grown aspiring political leaders who continually lapsed into infighting thus snuffing out nascent political developments. In fact, this hasn’t been the case in the Republic of Turkey, where official government policy has long denied a Kurdish identity and has muffled Kurdish voices. The only voice that did arise was that of the PKK, a hardline Marxist group given to terror tactics.

The long-running military struggle with the PKK indeed brought the Kurdish issue into the spotlight, but it has also meant that the PKK dominates and manipulates the great majority of Kurdish voices within Turkey. Here it would seem that the Kurds have been held back not by there being too  many ‘roosters’, but too few, in particular one ‘rooster’ – the PKK – out-crowing all others.

What is needed for a political solution to the Kurdish issue is other Kurdish voices to participate in dialogue, those who aren’t tainted by the PKK’s actions over the last four decades, who can negotiate with the Turkish government in good faith, the voices of Kurds who are true democrats without any agenda other than to resolve the issue in a representative way. The Turkish government has dragged the chain and missed many an opportunity in the past to address the problem democratically, and the situation is only getting more complicated at the moment.

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