Neither with nor without Öcalan

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared on behalf of the government that it has launched a “study” on the Kurdish issue. What is the “study” being prepared? An “initiative” to bring a solution to the Kurdish problem.

If you present the issue in that way, your final destination will be disappointment. What you have been doing is simply improving democratic standards based on human rights. It is a different thing to resolve the Kurdish issue. They can mean the same thing in Turkey, unfortunately.

Let me explain it. A report largely prepared by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the General Staff in coordination with the Interior Ministry will be discussed. While talking about the “study,” which was interpreted as an “initiative” in the public domain, Erdoğan referred to his party's manifesto and recommended that we read the relevant parts of it. Let us read: “Solutions based on the bureaucratic and authoritarian state mentality deepen the problems in the long run since they only rely on the logic of security. However, approaches close to a democratic state mentality yield results strengthening our nation's unity and territorial integrity even if they are met with concern in the beginning.”

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has not taken any meaningful steps to realize what they said in the party's manifesto except launching a Kurdish TV station. The country expects the government to take concrete steps within the framework of a democratic state mentality. Now, will the government be able to take these steps?

Let us see; will the opinions of the MİT, which seems to approach the issue more flexibly, and of the General Staff, which is hesitant about a solution to the issue, result in a common discourse?

Some new and definite steps can be taken. Reverting town names to their original Kurdish ones could be a part of this “initiative.” If this happens, it would be one of the most significant steps taken other than launching a TV station in Kurdish.

Democratization and resolving Kurdish issue are different

Turkey should fulfill the necessities of being a “democratic state” regardless of this or that factor. However, there is no need to raise expectations of a solution unnecessarily when such decisions are being made. For as long as the “Öcalan factor” remains in its current position, this and similar “initiatives” will not be enough to solve the problem.

Abdullah Öcalan, who has set out the reality of the Kurdish issue before Turkey, today stands as the biggest obstacle to the solution of the problem. Öcalan's role is not unlike that of Syria in Middle Eastern equations. Syria is not the biggest power in the world, but you can't have peace without Syria, they used to say, for Syria was, and still is, a country that has the capacity to axe a peace process at any time. Öcalan's position in relation to the Kurdish problem is exactly the same.

Öcalan and those who support him today do not, and never had, the power and social support to make Turkey accept the solution they desire. But they do have the capacity to make sure that any “initiative” they don't approve of will fail. This is a fact.

Öcalan has so far used his “capacity” to strengthen his own position rather than seeking to contribute to the solution of the Kurdish question. I don't think he will come up with a different “initiative” on Aug. 15. For Öcalan, he himself is more important than the solution to the Kurdish question or the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Ümit Fırat, one of Turkey's most prominent Kurdish writers, was right when he said Öcalan stands as the biggest obstacle before the settling of the Kurdish matter.

Öcalan knows very well that the more the matter becomes “visible” the more difficult it becomes to find a way out of it. The only contribution from him to the solution process would be not to “overshadow” it. However, it doesn't seem very likely at the moment.

The current trend in Turkey is democratization. We will take further steps in time, but let's be realistic. This country, in part, belongs to the Middle East. Personal deficiencies rule in societal issues.

Even if Turkey reaches the democratic standards of Sweden someday, it will probably continue to strive to find a way out of the Kurdish question as long as the “Öcalan factor” is active.