Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

Landmines in fields, landmines in minds

With the start of debates over the landmines along the Syrian border, we have learned what a "minefield" Turkey is. They are not in the land but also in minds, too. Clearing landmines is a difficult task, but I am afraid eliminating mines in the mind will take time enough to bury us all.

In the meantime, "mines laid by terrorists" are not included in statistics. Such mines killed six soldiers the other day in the county of Çukurca. First, President Abdullah Gül sent "optimistic" signals for the solution of the Kurdish issue, then "alarm bells" went off and then the mines laid by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, terrorists killed soldiers.

It seems that just days before the unilateral ceasefire of the PKK expires on June 1, the atmosphere of the near future has turned gloomy again.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should better hurry to meet the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, leader Ahmet Türk. After a joint voice against "violence" raised by 72 non-governmental organizations the other day in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır and Türk’s remarks about the latest Çukurca attack, Erdoğan should, or must, immediately take action for the removal of black clouds gathering over the near future of the Southeast.


Now, let’s go back to the landmine issue.

First, let’s clear minds about dozens of figures before we start with debates over "mine clearing." Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül revealed official numbers the other day. The decision to have landmines was reached in 1956 and in the period 1957-1959 mines were laid in an area 510 kilometers in length and 350 meters in width.

At this point, we have to clear up boloney though. For this said piece of land, which is claimed to be awarded to an Israeli company, some said, "It makes two Cyprus islands in size."

But as Cyprus sits on a 9,600 square kilometer area, the subject area is 216 square kilometer, 186 square kilometer of which belongs to the Treasury and the rest is shared among the State Railways, other institutions and farmers in the region.

Why is this information important? Because if the landmine bill is adopted, the land cleared of mines will not be awarded to foreigners for farming.

And the other issue is to allow "organic" farming in this piece of land after the mines are removed, which at this point the claims of "awarding it to Israelis" come in. At this point, we cannot ignore what Minister Gönül says. "Whether or not this field is appropriate for farming will be determined after mines are cleared.

Perhaps the mines contaminated the area. We don’t know this yet. The reason is a mine is a chemical substance." The translation is that groups raising hell now are mostly rambling about a situation in which Israel is at the center.

Let’s give some more details about the figures. The total number of landmines along the Syrian border is 615,145. In addition, 75,115 mines exist in a 42-kilometer-long area on the Iraqi border.

On the Iranian border, there are 191,428 landmines and 21,984 cover 17 kilometers of the Armenian border. The landmines that were along the borders with Greece and Bulgaria, I mean our NATO allies, have been removed.

Besides, a total of 2.5 million anti-personnel landmines are kept in the military’s depots. In total, it makes about 3.5 million landmines. A terrifying number this is. Now it becomes self-evident that why we keep saying "We are surrounded by enemies in four directions" and why we have such big security concerns.

And of course all these lay in our subconscious as well.Another critical part of the matter is this: A global landmine ban (The Ottawa Mine Treaty) was signed in Sept. 2003 in the Canadian city of Ottawa. Turkey sıgned onto this agreement in March 2004. Turkey promised destruction of 2.5 million mines in stock by March 1, 2008 after signing the treaty, but failed to do so. Until the date, number of mines removed was around 1,000 or 2,000 even though it’s been over a year since the date passed.

This was the requirement of Article 4 in the Ottawa Mine Treaty. And Article 5 foresees destruction of landmines by March 1, 2014. Yet our "track-record" is evident.

It is not an easy task but let’s look at Serbia. Serbia-Montenegro signed the treaty just six months after Turkey, in September 2004. There were a total of 1.3 million landmines, 40,000 of which were in Montenegro. Serbia-Montenegro removed all mines by May 16, 2007.

Do you think Turkey makes a sloppy job or inaptitude in the issue?

I think the problem is mines in "minds."


When we talk about Turkey, we are talking about a country where the opposition parties’ "democracy criteria" are even way behind that of the controversial governing party.

All the opposition parties in Turkey in the age of globalization have failed to clean out the "nationalism" virus from their bodies. And the ruling party also has plenty of that virus, too. Every single step cannot be taken for this reason.

A "constitutional change" in internal politics is a must for a freer Turkey, its democratization and integration with the European Union.

But the said "virus" is inside the current Constitution as well. This is why we cannot reach consensus over a new charter.

As for the foreign politics, one of the two main troubles is Cyprus and the other is the relations with Armenian.

Both seem like "conditioned to our brother" but the real problem is the "nationalism" inside so deep and so spread that it is easy to use this as a pretext.

In the Kurdish issue, if "identity rights" of Kurds are expanded, violence can be eliminated and we can find solutions. The "nationalism" obstacle mounted in minds is the question here again.

So Mr. President keeps mumbling the same thing for months and somehow fails to solidify it. If he speaks up clearly, his already-controversial-position will be questioned by tough "nationalism" shots.

With plenty of "mines in minds" already, it not an easy job to bring millions of mines out of storage and remove tens of thousands of landmines.

It takes years. Enjoy itÉ