The Republic of Turkey was founded in a formidable region with a profoundly vital geostrategic position. Although it is not one of the few ruling powers of the world, any political development in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and even the Far East concerns Turkey directly. Genocide in the Balkans or a war in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Palestine or Syria leads thousands of people, as in the 1893 Russo-Ottoman War or World War I, to Turkey. Within the world order established after World War I, Turkey was forced to turn a deaf ear to such humane demands. In the 1990s, however, when for the first time Turkey gradually became sensitive to regional trouble and began to take a solemn political interest in those problems, the consequence was the exposition not only of Turkey's regional challenges, but also of the depth of its geographic significance and influence.
While the Middle East had begun to be reshaped by the so-called Arab Spring, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) took a firm step toward the resolution of the Kurdish question, a bleeding issue 80 years standing. Kurdish identity has been denied since the foundation of the Republic, while Kurds, upon whom a strict policy of assimilation was imposed, continued to live as an immense community that had openly been ignored by the state. In his seminal speech in Diyarbakır, for the first time in Turkey's history, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then as prime minister, recognized the Kurdish question and identity. It was a crucial moment for Turkey's Kurdish population. Until that day, the Kurdish question was entrusted to the army and the region had been ruled by heavy emergency laws. The most common thing that the people of the region demanded from the prime minister was the abolition of that state of emergency. After its electoral triumph in 2011, the AK Party took even greater steps toward democratization. In this new era of reformation, bold steps were taken for the ultimate democratic resolution of the Kurdish question by commencing negotiations with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish parties. The people of Turkey welcome the peace process, while the courageous determination of the government in the resolution of the Kurdish question has been highly appreciated by almost every segment of society.
However, we could not have apprehended how international powers would respond to the reconciliation process, which has been the true hunchback of the Turkish nation-state since its foundation. While the reconciliation process was in progress, at the very beginning of the Syrian civil war, Iran and Syria abandoned the entirety of northern Syria to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), i.e. the Syrian branch of the PKK. This was the beginning of a new stage of the Kurdish question.
The prolongation of the Syrian civil war, along with the existence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Syria, which was itself a product of international intelligence organizations, has put Turkey's reconciliation process in trouble. As the ISIS nightmare, right after crushing the Yazidis, turned toward Kobani, Kurdish politicians who previously opposed Turkey's cross-border operations, called for its military intervention in northern Syria. By insinuating a latent international operation against ISIS, a deep wound was inflicted in relations between Turkish and Kurdish people, while 50 Kurdish citizens who did not think alike were killed by the PKK through an open call of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair. To be continued…
About the author
İhsan Aktaş is Chairman of the Board of GENAR Research Company. He is an academic at the Department of Communication at Istanbul Medipol University.