Why does the reconciliation process suffer setbacks?

Published 15.11.2014 00:13

There was a common argument among those who analyzed the Kurdish reconciliation process regardless of whether they supported the government or the PKK. This was that the reconciliation process would democratize Turkey further while integrating Kurds in the country. It was thought that Turkey would become more democratized by gaining Kurdish support and would have a bolstered influence in the Middle East, and this in turn would strengthen the position of Kurds in the region. It was also foreseen that Kurds would increasingly become an element of stability in the Middle East, which would rapidly improve Turkey's economy and give the country an important political influence. In short, the reconciliation process was an obvious win-win situation.

Counter-arguments, on the other hand, pointed to developments in which both parties would lose. Thus, the century-long grievances of Kurds would fail to be resolved and they would not regain their basic human rights while Turkey would be doomed to instability. Worse still, the continuation of the problem would trigger perpetual warfare where thousands more people would die. It was obvious that there would not be any economic and social development in Kurdish-populated regions. It was said that this picture would produce a passive and ineffective Turkey in the Middle East while Kurds would no longer have a chance to stand on their own legs.

These arguments are still valid. It is not so difficult for those who can get out of ideological barnacles a little bit to see that if Turkey and Kurds of the Middle East create a common destiny, they can produce a great synergy. One can easily imagine the position that Turkey will reach as a country that solves its basic social problems and establishes its administrative structure consolidated by local elements.

We face a critical question at this point of our argument. Why does the reconciliation process constantly come to a standstill and does it require going back to the beginning to some extent even though it overtly suggests such a win-win situation? It is evident that the assumption of a win-win result is not a mistake, as neither of the parties have given up on embracing the process and they immediately act to make up for any setbacks. Both parties know that they will profit if the process succeeds. So, what is the reason for these continuous setbacks?

It may be related to mutual distrust and the overall inexperience of Turkey in handling this type of problem. But such explanations fall short of explaining repetitive political drawbacks. Here is a more realistic point of view. Even though this is a win-win situation, the potential gains of the two parties are not equal. From a reverse point of view, even if this were a lose-lose situation, the loss would not be equal either. Ankara will a have more advantageous position in both cases.

In short, we are face to face with an asymmetrical reconciliation process as the government is better prepared for the concessions it will make. While all Kurdish cultural rights are being rehabilitated, their political rights will be decided in a pluralistic democratic environment. However, this solution does not tell what will happen to the PKK. If Kurds win, this does not necessarily mean that the PKK will also win. What if the PKK loses while Kurds win? In other words, what if the Kurdish question is resolved and the PKK has to lose its monopolistic position in the region? This is a very realistic possibility as reconciliation will bring pluralist politics and the PKK's sphere of influence will shrink.

This asymmetry makes the PKK desire the reconciliation on the one hand, but it disturbs it on the other. Therefore, it seems that the solution of the Kurdish question is not independent from the question of democratization of Kurds among themselves.

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