Ahead of the 2019 elections, Turkey's oppositional parties had two objectives. First, they wanted to launch a joint presidential campaign against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Second, they wanted to control the Kurdish vote. Their first plan officially failed last week. Now their efforts to influence the Kurdish vote will fail provided that Kurdish politics is on the brink of a major transformation.
Unwilling to face the music, certain powerful groups are trying to put on a show. Some politicians and media outlets make the case that Turkey's Kurds are "heartbroken" due to the Turkish government's approach to Masoud Barzani's independence referendum and Operation Olive Branch against PKK militants in Afrin. As a matter of fact, they are actively trying to fuel frustration among Kurds.
Obviously, this coordinated campaign partly derives power from the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) occasional use of nationalist rhetoric and the movement's alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). But there is a clear effort to blow those decisions out of proportion, as well. In other words, certain practices, which have nothing to do with actual policies, are portrayed as policy decisions to fuel hostility between certain social groups.
Ironically, the individuals launching this smear campaign arguing that the AK Party and the MHP are enemies of the Kurds have no problem promoting the Good Party (İP) – a movement born out of the MHP that subscribes to a rigid type of nationalism. To be clear, the same people pushed for the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the MHP to form a coalition government after the June 2015 elections.
Needless to say, Turkish people and AK Party leadership are perfectly aware of the tricks that those individuals are trying to pull. The failure to draw the line between terrorism and civilian politics undermines the effectiveness of the smear campaign for two reasons. First, Kurds have witnessed that their support for civilian politicians in the June 2015 elections did not pay off as the PKK sidelined the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and HDP leaders were eager to play along. Second, Turkey has been fighting terrorism not just within its borders, but also in neighboring countries. For the first time in history, the country is combating not just the PKK but also its sponsors.
Turkey has been living under a serious terror threat for four decades. Thousands of Turkish and Kurdish lives have been lost in the process. The terror campaign took a heavy toll on the country's economic and social life. Had the financial resources devoted to purchasing weapons and ammunition alone been used to create jobs and promote economic development, southeastern Turkey would have been one of the country's most prosperous regions.The PKK and the old guard within the Turkish state, who were allied with the United States, could not allow this to happen. Instead, the vicious cycle of violence affected all aspects of everyday life. In southeastern Turkey, terrorists held local communities at gunpoint, fueled nationalism, took all the steps necessary to undermine the people's commitment to peaceful coexistence and destroyed the possibility of engaging in civilian politics. Therefore, the only alternative to the AK Party in the region is the PKK right now. The terrorists have not let any other Kurdish party survive.
Like the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the PKK has always been a useful pawn for the West in the region. Westerners enlisted the group's services if and when necessary. The United States and other Western powers have always been deeply involved in the Kurdish issue with their intelligence services and civilian institutions. They never wanted Turkey to address this issue. Since the late Turgut Özal's tenure, the West has been the single greatest obstacle before any meaningful progress toward the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue. The peace process, which Erdoğan launched by delivering a historic address in Diyarbakır in 2005, was also hindered by the West.
The same thing is happening today in Syria. But Turkey, which learned valuable lessons from its history, promotes democratic politics at the expense of violence.
Although the country still faces certain challenges, it is possible to argue that things will get a little easier now that the guardianship regime and FETÖ operatives within the state have been eliminated. Obviously, those accomplishments must be accompanied by a commitment from the AK Party to create a new political rhetoric, promote democracy and empower local politicians to enter Parliament. Therefore, the June 24 election will mark a turning point not just for Turkey's political system but also for the country's Kurds, who will finally enjoy nonviolent politics.