The government has launched a project for southeast villages to reclaim their original Kurdish names, endorses the formation of a Kurdish Language Research Center at Istanbul University and previously lifted a ban on giving newborn babies Kurdish names, creating a positive impact.
New moves are being made one after the other. There is one more. Banners carrying quotations from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, like "How happy is he who can say, ’I am a Turk’" or "Be proud, work enthusiastically and trust yourself" will be removed by the governor’s offices in provinces heavily populated by Kurds. Justice and Development Party, or AKP, deputies of Kurdish descent had often brought up the issue at party meetings, saying, "You cannot force a Kurd to say ’I am a Turk.’" The AKP’s Kurdish deputies went to the party administration and said that this step, along with the name change, would create tremendous "psychological relief" in the region.
Months ago, a top-ranking party officer (now appointed as a minister) told me during a conversation in Parliament: "Kurds were treated as if they did not exist. They were labeled ’black wolves’ or ’mountain Turks.’ For years, Kurdish citizens were forced to recite ’How happy is he who can say, "I am a Turk," which was even written on mountains. If a man says, ’I am a Kurd,’ can you force him to say, ’I am a Turk’? Through the whispering in Parliament, I see that the AKP government has conducted studies to stop propaganda based on slogans that create psychological pressure on Kurdish people living in the region. Apparently, the "How happy is he who can say, ’I am a Turk’" move will soon to be introduced as part of a hoped-for solution to the Kurdish issue. Let’s see how it will be received and what new moves will be made.
Why can the losers not bid farewell?
But the impact of feudal structure still cannot be denied. It is the fact that honor killing and blood feuds are committed in eastern Turkey for centuries, and they cannot be eliminated totally. Despite sincere efforts to do so, a solid solution other than temporary preventions couldn’t be found so far. A couple of years ago, Turkish politicians, moved by the "Güldünya incident," set up a research commission for the Prevention of Violence against Women and Children, and Honor Killings. The commission conducted important studies and published a report suggesting a series of solutions. What happened to that report? Are suggestions being implemented?
First, let’s look at the report and recall a few things: 1,091 people were killed under honor killings category between 2002 and 2005. Twenty-nine percent of murders were honor killings, 29 percent was due to family problems, 15 percent was about love affairs, 10 percent was about blood feud, 3 percent was rape, 9 percent sexual abuse, 3 percent marriage-related and 3 percent was about others. In the report’s conclusion suggestions for a solution include an action plan should be designed for the prevention of honor killings in the period 2006-2011, male dominance should be changed... It is a long suggestion list.
The massacre in Mardin has shown once again that this key report of Parliament was forgotten on the shelf. Despite a few sincere attempts, a big part of it hasn’t been implemented.
If the report published two years ago had been implemented, there wouldn’t be elegies coming out in Mardin because Parliament’s report was submitted for the solution of a vital issue; perhaps it was the only comprehensive package prepared on the subject.
Then, the AKP’s legal team led by Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek added three more articles unexpectedly. Erdoğan will make the final decision about the package at the beginning of the week. How likely will the package be adopted in Parliament? It seems rather unlikely. The AKP holds 338 seats in Parliament. And 367 votes are needed for the approval of a constitutional change without a referendum. If the number of votes remains between 330 and 367, an amendment is put to a public vote.
The CHP previously suggested "limiting parliamentary immunities" as a pre-condition to support constitutional amendments. But the AKP rejected the condition. This time, the AKP has reached a point where "we have no pre-condition and can discuss immunities as well." However, the CHP now set a new criterion: sincerity. The CHP spokesmen say, we will never sign amendments with the AKP because we don’t believe their sincerity. For Parliament, arithmetic proves amendments are difficult unless the AKP considers a referendum. In this case, the AKP may say, we tried but the opposition blocked the changes. Then, amendments may be shelved till the next general elections.
When will Baykal seek party change?
A period of transformation, or change, is being voiced in the CHP since Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu became a shining star during the March 29 local elections. In fact, the CHP made some changes in its bylaws and prepared infrastructure for a new look in the pre-election period. Over a month has passed since the local polls and the CHP’s new look is still being delayed. "We’ll do it," says Baykal. Then, when will a change take place? The CHP general convention gathers in June 2010. Though limited, some sort of a change will take place in the CHPÉ The CHP’s past doesn’t allow radical changes in the body. We’ll wait and seeÉ
Following the constitutional amendment approved as a result of a popular vote recently, the term in office was reduced from seven years to five. Gül was elected for only a period of seven-years in accordance with the previous constitution. Current supreme text includes the statement that a president is elected twice for five-year periods. Will Gül remain in office for five or seven years? This will be the topic of discussions in the upcoming days.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, wants to put an end to this discussion by going for a change in the Constitution. A seven-year term for Gül is gradually gaining supporters in the AKP because of political calculations. The issue was laid on the table during the party’s Central Executive Board, or MYK, meeting. MYK members voiced the following concern:
"President Gül was elected for seven years. If it is reduced to five, this would set a precedent. If another party ends the AKP period and has the majority to change the Constitution, they could reduce the period to five years and may attempt to remove Gül from presidential office."
In the light of this concern, the AKP is now looking for a solution to the issue. A possible solution is solving the problem with a temporary article while discussing constitutional changes.
But does this "model partnership" include possible solutions to the Kurdish issue and disarmament of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK? Has the Obama administration taken any solid steps in this direction? Was this on the agenda during the talks held between Turkish and Iraqi government officials? If it was, what is the plan? Are we taking a last turn in solution to the Kurdish issue?
In the light of all these questions, Ankara has now turned its eye to the Kurdish conference to be held in May in northern Iraq, upon the initiatives of Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani. Will the "model partnership" play a role of facilitation in the process? First impression is that serious initiatives and talks behind closed doors continue about this conference. Possible PKK cease-fire by June, the DTP call for benefiting from this process and the Iraqi government’s attitude signal the existence of strong offstage talks. Clearly, Kurds have high expectations. Can the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government give a nod of approval to the requests listed above and a "general or partial amnesty"? It doesn’t seem easy. But a permanent solution requires political determination and a strong will to pay the price for the outcome. Perhaps the secret lies in what Obama said to Türk: "It is crucial for the DTP and Kurds being in politics. The issue cannot be resolved by violence and arms." What do you say? Is Turkey heading to "amnesty"?
Footballing take on election results
The AKP lost nine points in the March 29 local elections and dropped below 40 percent. But in the July 22, 2007, general elections, by gaining 47 percent of total votes the ruling party managed to steal the votes of almost one of two people. The present picture has seriously motivated the party. The AKP Parliamentary Group Acting Chair Nihat Ergün says that they analyzed election results in all provinces and explains the situation in football terms: "Did the coach give wrong tactics? Did we scored against from an offside position? Did we choose the wrong starting 11? Did the players or referee make the mistake? We are looking into allÉ" It seems that the AKP would hold players responsible because the club president, so to speak, Erdoğan announced: "The Cabinet Council and our look will change." We’ll see which minister will be shown a red card and which will have yellow ones.
Let me elaborate a little. The morning after the polls, Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal seemed happy to have a 2.5-point increase in votes. "The results show that an early election is unnecessary," he said. Behind his remarks, the approach was to help wear out the government until the general elections in July 2011 and to create an advantage for the CHP.
The governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, gained 34 percent of votes in the 2002 general elections, 42 percent in the 2004 local polls and 47 percent in the 2007 general elections, but lost momentum in the last seven years on March 29 and regressed to 38 percent of votes. Baykal was implying that the AKP would be worn down after seven years, and the process would speed up in the next two years.
As the CHP won 23 percent and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP won 16 percent of votes in the middle of the economic crisis, could the AKP’s speedy recovery period bring about early elections? This is being voiced behind the closed doors in Parliament. A representative I ran across says, "This is not surprising. Expecting an early election for today is not realistic. Even 38 percent carries the AKP to the government, but after this one-and-a-half year recovery period, it is more realistic to expect an early election in mid-2010."
After the AKP overcomes the negative impact of the local polls and revises the Cabinet, it will take the stage again and push for 40 percent and above. If the AKP can manage this and goes for an early election in 2010, the opposition’s fears come true. And Prime Minister Erdoğan is a leader open to all kinds of surprises.
The rumored initiative is two-fold and could be categorized as "psychological." The first part is to abolish the ban on the use of Kurdish names for places. A ban on the use of Kurdish names for newborns was lifted in the past, a move that Kurds in the region saw as a positive one.
The second part of the rumor is the possible removal of the official catchphrase, "Turk, be proud, work and trust," from the walls of governors’ offices in the towns of southeastern Anatolia. Some Justice and Development Party, or AKP, members with Kurdish origins had similar demands in the past as they assumed that these moves would create a better climate for future initiatives.
Are these merely wishful thinking by some AKP deputies of Kurdish origin or is it an agreed-upon package? Though there is no concrete answer, it seems there will be significant developments in the near future on this issue.
"In the past, Kurds were disregarded. For years, Kurds were forced to memorize the motto of ’How happy is he/she who calls himself/herself a Turk.’ Was it a good solution to force one to call himself Turk? Now it appears that these policies failed. While granting Kurds economic, cultural and social rights, the tools of psychological pressure should also be cleared," a senior official of the ruling party said in Parliament.