By Halil Karaveli
April 5, 2016
The outsize personality of President Erdoğan obscures the systemic dynamics that sustain his exercise of power. Erdoğan’s push for an executive presidency corresponds to the “logic” of Turkish state power. Erdoğan’s personal ambitions and raison d’état coincide to reinforce authoritarianism. Ultimately, democracy in Turkey is crippled because no major political force, representing the Turkish majority, challenges the dominant mentality that holds that the survival of the state requires the checking of ethnic and cultural diversity.
Sezin Öney on the Haberdar news site notes that President Erdoğan on March 11 stated that “We are going to build a new Southeast.” It seems that the state is executing a specific project. Since last summer, a “military-civilian coalition” or what should perhaps more accurately be called a “comradeship-in-arms” has been established at the highest echelons of the state. The different elements of this coalition or comradeship may not see eye to eye on every issue, but there seems to be an agreement between them regarding the execution of a specific project aiming at the reconfiguration of the Southeast. Why was the need felt to send in all the elements of the security forces, deploying excessive violence, into the city centers? The area is being “cleaned,” to use military terminology. According to the estimates of the Union of the Municipalities of the Southeast, close to two hundred thousand people have migrated – whether temporarily or permanently -- from the urban areas that are subjected to military operations. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Association suggests that the internal migration could possibly number around three hundred to four hundred thousand people. The military operations that have led to this refugee flow seem to be the expression of the “allergy” of the state to Kurdish developments: first the “democratic autonomy” that was declared in Rojava and subsequently the fact that HDP crossed the threshold to parliament in the June 7, 2015 general election. It seems that “raison d’état” calls for a “cordon sanitaire” in order to contain what the state fears is a “contagion” of Kurdish identity and political aspirations. The policy of “erase and rebuild” seems to be a way of driving away the Kurdish population from the region, to simply discourage it from continuing to live there; is some kind of deportation also part and parcel of the state policy? Is the state maybe also entertaining a plan to create a different demographic structure in the region?
Ergun Babahan on the news site Özgür Düşünce writes that AKP never intended to reach an agreement with PKK and solve the Kurdish problem on the basis of a Western model. It assumed that it was going to be able to dilute the Kurdish identity within a Sunni Muslim identity and that it would solve the problem with economic investments and individual rights. When the Kurds mobilized around HDP and the party crossed the ten percent threshold to parliament that not only jeopardized Erdoğan’s dreams of an executive presidency. It also jeopardized the founding paradigm which the 1980 coup had put in place specifically in order to ensure that the Kurds were kept out of the parliament and politics. Different schemes were enacted to block the path of HDP and to neutralize the Kurds politically (after the June 2015 general election.) This is the development that those who are accusing the PKK of having fallen into the trap of the state, or of AKP fail to fully read. The state openly chose to settle the accounts with the Kurds by the means of violence.
Kadri Gürsel on Diken news site notes that the Turkish regime has vowed to fight the war to the end. I guess what they mean by this is that the war is going to continue until PKK has been finished off. Those who haven’t lost their minds will realize that trying to finish the Kurdish problem with military means in 2016 will amount to finishing off Turkey. But while a military solution is not possible, what about a political solution? Is that possible? Let alone a political solution, not even a secretly or openly negotiated cease-fire with PKK is possible when someone’s priority is a “presidential system.” For how could a cease-fire with PKK be explained to the nationalist and conservative voters who will have to be courted in a coming referendum to amend the constitution? It could only work if PKK surrendered during 2016, and there are no signs of this happening. On the contrary, PKK is vowing to “overthrow Erdoğan.” The regime is unable to solve this historical crisis which has erupted only as a result of its own policies, either militarily or politically.
Fatih Yaşlı in Birgün writes that at first glance, the terror attack in Ankara on March 13 would appear to have been “wrong and a mistake” from the view point of PKK, which has also been pointed out by leftist circles that are close to the Kurdish movement. These make the point that the massacre in Ankara circumscribes the political room of maneuver of the leftist-democrat forces in the west of the country and that it has undermined the position of those who call for a democratic and peaceful resolution of the Kurdish problem. What this criticism overlooks is the fact that the dynamics of war has changed since the state abandoned the “solution process”, and that the PKK – in response to the state violence that has been escalating since then – no longer gives priority to forcing a solution with “democratic” methods. Instead, PKK is spreading the war in the Kurdish areas to the rest of the country. As war has become the way of conducting politics, it leads to new alignments: MHP edges closer to the government, while CHP’s statist reflexes are triggered and the party’s discourse becomes similar to that of the governing party. And we know who’s going to benefit from that. Unfortunately, we can expect that the worst is yet to come, lest the two sides are bluffing, which they don’t seem to be doing. When the “spring war” intensifies, attacks like these are going to become routine, and with growing polarization in society, there will follow an increased risk that civilians are going to take on each other directly.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.