The interventions of security forces after some groups from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the outlawed PKK closed the Bingöl-Diyarbakır highway due to some controversial reasons seemingly raised concerns over the future of the reconciliation process with the Kurdish people.
It is normal that concerns over the issue have arisen as the importance of the reconciliation process becomes clearer. Without a doubt, some groups within the Kurdish nationalist movement favor the continuity of violence. It can be understood that they do not want to miss any chance that could end the process. The same approach is also common among Turkish nationalists.
As the resolution process is so valuable, completing the process with success is even more valuable. So, the route to the resolution process is vital.
However, this route has not been clarified yet. And many suggestions have been made on the structural steps required to be taken for the success of the process. I think it will be more beneficial to focus on the causes of this problem first since the causes of the problems can offer insights into possible solutions.
The Kurdish issue is one that has been a problem since the late Ottoman period. During this period the dominant view among military and elite bureaucrats was that the state would recover with the westernization of the country and its transformation into a ethno-centric, strictly centralist state. Political romanticism and social engineering were the outstanding ideas of that period.
When this social group loses its legitimacy due to its role in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the possibility of solving the Kurdish issue on the basis of a new social contract arose.
Between 1919 and 1922, the period corresponding to the Turkish War of Independence, Kurds displayed their willingness to live together. They became the founding members of the National Assembly founded in Ankara. They participated in the formation of a new social contract in which they could experience freedom. As an expression of that, the 1921 Constitution was accepted by the Parliament.
This Constitution did not refer to any ethnicity. It only used the term "nation" as it is uttered in the Turkish national anthem. A pluralist and multi-colored Parliament was placed at the center of politics without excluding any group. The Parliament had the authority to supervise all the public institutions including the government. In this way, different social groups could control the state through the Parliament and any alienation between society and the state was not allowed
While the center had such authority, local administrations were also reinforced on a large scale to balance the power of the center. This rule both sustained a balance between the central authority and local authorities and allowed the different local agents to participate in the politics more actively. Through this, a precedent of cooperation was born between the political mechanisms and all the other differences. Of course, this constitutional choice used to provide integration, leaving no room for the ambitions of social engineering.
However, with the success in the War of Independence, supporters of the Union and Progress Committee and the army were able to increase their authority over the central government, which paved the way for the end of this period. Some parliament members were killed. And finally the Parliament was unconstitutionally dispersed. After that, no dynamics or institution remained to keep up the 1921 Constitution.
Firstly, the articles supporting the pluralist parliament and local administrations were cleared out from the constitution. After one year, an ethnocentric, strictly centralist, exclusivist and assimilationist constitutional order was developed. The rest of the story is widely known.
While discussing the route to the resolution process, it is also required to consider the structural choices that produced this issue in the past.
About the author
Osman Can is a Law Professor and Reporting Judge at the Turkish Constitutional Court. He holds a PhD from the University of Cologne, Germany.