June 11, 2013

Experts: Defeat of Erdoğan Dooms The Turkish-Kurdish Peace Process

How can this man secure a peace deal with the Kurds when he can't even secure peace in the streets?

Middle East experts are saying that the political defeat of Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan could endanger the shaky Turkish-Kurdish peace deal that went into effect in early May when PKK soldiers began exiting the country and made their way to northern Iraq. It is the belief of some that a sizable amount of the secular and nationalist protesters that are taking part in the anti-Erdoğan protests do not wish to see a permanent peace between the Kurds and the Turkish state. Read the articles below for more analysis and information about the protests.

An excerpt from, "Erdogan's Troubles Endanger Kurdish Peace" by Morton Abramowitz, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey (The National Interest, June 11):
Throughout the present uprisings, preserving the peace process has been the top priority for the Kurdish political movement. While more than sixty provinces have been engulfed with protests, relative calm has prevailed in the major Kurdish cities. Even though a Kurdish parliamentarian prevented an earthmover from uprooting the trees in now famed Gezi Park and laid the foundation for mass protests, the Kurdish political movement has been equivocal about the uprising. This can be attributed less to the absence of resentments among the Kurds against the AKP government than a careful policy by main Kurdish political entities.

The Kurdish political parties clearly do not want to jeopardize the peace process by alienating Erdogan. Major Kurdish political figures and PKK leaders necessarily expressed their solidarity with the protesters against the dictatorial prime minister, but also made known their concerns that continuing demonstrations could turn against the peace process. Some Kurds also believe that a weakened Erdogan cannot make the necessary political changes to resolve the Kurdish issue. However, if Erdogan keeps up with his hardline and illiberal stance, it will be harder for Kurds to maintain their distance from the protests. PKK leader Ocalan’s recent statements praising the protests and asking the Kurds not to leave the streets to nationalists and the supporters of “the deep state” may signal further Kurdish involvement in the uprising.
An excerpt from, "Turkey-Kurdish Peace Could Be Victim of Istanbul Showdown" by Kadri Gursel (Al Monitor, June 11):
If the peace process with the Kurds had not started, there wouldn’t be such large participation at the Gezi Park resistance. It is possible to claim that the secular Turks living in the west of the country have benefited considerably from the Kurdish experience in civil disobedience.

This is how Demirtas interpreted the situation in a speech he delivered at this party’s Tunceli Provincial Congress: ‘’Solution process affected the popular movement. Psychological and sociological ambiance created by the onset of the negotiation process has formed the foundation of the popular movement in Turkey. Look, when that war ended, the reaction, the anger of the people has begun to flow out to the streets.”

It is impossible not to agree with Demirtas. But if Erdogan responds to the Gezi protests not through democracy but with oppression and more authoritarianism, its effects will be truly negative on the peace process.  Degeneration of the peace process will above all upend Erdogan’s calculations and expectations.
An excerpt from, "In Taksim Square, Where Are the Kurds?" by Jenna Krajeski (The New Yorker, June 11):
On Wednesday, a few hours before the protest was scheduled to start, I visited the B.D.P. offices in Tarlabasi, a poor neighborhood adjacent to Taksim. The office is across a narrow street from a police station, where gates protect armored vehicles and riot police protect other riot police from angry passersby. I talked to Neyzat Yeziz, the office director. Yeziz was joining the rally that evening, but not even he was sure where the Kurds would collectively end up. “Over the last ten years, the government has tried to suppress many sides of Turkey,” Yeziz said. “The only group they couldn’t control were the Kurds.”

Some Kurds are bitter that, throughout years of media censorship and police brutality aimed at Kurds, no one has protested in their defense. Ramazan Tunc, an economist and co-founder of Diyarbakir’s Mesopotamia Foundation, wrote to me in an e-mail: “The Kurds faced gas bombs in any democratic protest, but the people in the west of Turkey did not hear the voice of their brothers in the east or did not want to hear.”

Perhaps the experience in Taksim Square will change that, too. Osman, the government clerk, for all his frustration with the Kurds, suggested as much. He told me, “Turks are now saying, ‘Who knows what was actually going on in southeast Turkey?’ ”
An excerpt from, "The uprising against Brother Erdogan" by Thierry Meyssan (The Voltaire Network, June 10):
In the present context, the Western press has focused on specific details: a housing project in Istanbul, ban on late-night sales of alcholol, or statements encouraging population growth. All this is true, but it doesn’t add up to a revolution.

By showing its true nature, the Erdogan government has cut itself off from the population. Only a minority of Sunnis can identify with the backward and hypocritical programme of the Brothers. As it happens, about 50% of Turks are Sunni, 20% Alevi (that is to say Alawites), 20% are Kurds (mostly Sunni), and 10% belong to other minorities. It is statistically clear that the Erdogan government can not hold out against the uprising that its own policies helped to ignite.

By overthrowing him, the Turks would be solving not only their own problems, but would also be putting an end to the war against Syria. I have often pointed out that the war would stop the day one of its foreign sponsors exits the scene. This will soon be the case. Thus, the Turkish people will also halt the Brotherhood’s expansion. Erdogan’s fall foreshadows that of his friends; Ghannouchi in Tunisia and Morsi in Egypt. It is in fact most unlikely that these artificial governments, imposed via rigged elections, can survive their powerful sponsor.