On the other hand, PM Erdoğan during the AKP’s annual meeting capitalized on public opinion surveys and said that most Turks want the reinstatement of capital (death) penalty so that PKK’s Abdullah Öcalan can be executed. In his words,
“This country changed the law to abolish the death penalty even though the terrorist leader [Öcalan] was given the death penalty…He is residing now on İmralı [island in the Marmara Sea] because of that. A majority of our people want to bring back the death penalty now because the relatives of the killed are in pain.”
Erdoğan went further than that to remind the audience of his commitment to “one nation” despite multiple ethnicities that may exist within it. He also mentioned that the government launched elective Kurdish language courses, highlighting however that this was not because of PKK’s wishes.
One fundamental concern/question arises out of all the aforementioned: how committed is the Turkish government to addressing the very real Kurdish issue? Obviously the hunger strikes are happening, the PKK is waging an intense guerilla war against the government, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party (BDP) is openly criticizing the government about its stance on the Kurdish issue, and very often there are Kurdish protests and clashes between Kurds and the police. That is to say that there is a Kurdish issue and that it would be nice for a change for all the political powers of the country to acknowledge it instead of being in denial. It would also be helpful if the ruling party decided to genuinely follow some social, political and cultural policies that would eventually integrate the Kurds and their own particularities into the rest of the society and the state apparatuses. That would really be a “winning the hearts and minds” approach, which would bring about real change on this matter, instead of granting minor rights to the Kurds while maintaining a mentality of assimilating them into the “Turkish nation”.
Devlet Bahçeli’s and, more importantly, PM Erdoğan’s remarks have thrown the whole “hearts and minds” approach out the window. The idea alone that Öcalan should probably be executed because that is what most Turks want disregards entirely what a large portion of the Kurds want and most importantly the PKK, which is the biggest problem right now – no matter what one thinks of the PKK. After all, why would anyone say something like that if he wanted to de-escalate the situation? In the midst of all the problems mentioned above which clearly constitute an escalation in the Kurdish issue (both nationally and regionally) the AKP – as well as other political powers – is clearly showing a more confrontational face on the Kurdish issue; one that in no way resembles the “Kurdish Opening” of 2009 or recent efforts for a multiparty approach to the matter.
04 November 2012
Appeared on Strategy International, 05 November 2012.