We are a weird society, that’s what we are. We believe that if we talk about our thoughts or what goes through our minds these will pass on to others and come back at us one day.
One obvious example we encounter is the use of the word Kurd. For years we tried not to use the word Kurd.
We feared if we used the word Kurd some people would remember they were Kurdish. We couldn’t comprehend that even if we did not use the word Kurd and tried to make them forget they still would not give up their Kurdish identity. As a matter of fact, even though so many years have passed, we see today that nobody forgot about their Kurdish identity but only deceived us. They pretended to have forgotten. Nowadays almost the same goes for the word Kurdistan. Our tongues do not allow us to pronounce this word. Even if this word is used in a geographical way and even if it used to be called that during the Ottoman Empire we keep our distance from this word.
We have a hidden fear inside us. We are concerned that if we use this word someday there will be a Kurdistan established in some part of our country. For a substantial part of our society this is a valid fear. Thus we constantly call it northern Iraq. We justify ourselves by saying "We respect Iraq’s territorial integrity and call it that because we want to show that we oppose the Kurd’s wish for independence."
In contrast, the Iraqi Constitution states it as the "Iraqi Kurdistan Autonomous Region." A similar definition is present in Iran. This means that Iraq and Iran have no such worries. But we have not been able to get rid of our suspicions. In a place where weapons speak, conventional wisdom subsides. The resistance in Turkish society is based on just this impetus. But as we develop our relationship with Barzani it will be easier to be rid of this concern.
Opening a consulate general in Arbil
Foremost northern Iraq needs to be recognized and be held in esteem. By recognition I mean not a formal state recognition. For Kurdistan is not an independent state. I am talking about accepting their presence and not ignoring them.
Turkey has improved its relations with Iraqi Kurds substantially compared to former years. There is no hostile statement or approach anymore. On the contrary, tiny messages are sent. Symbolic steps are taken. The "reality" of Iraqi Kurds is more widely accepted. If once upon a time in the region Turkey had considered the proposal to using the Turkish Lira in the region, deepened relations with those whom it despised as a "tribe" and had been mature and wise enough to behave like a "big brother", then this historical opportunity would not have passed. Now steps are being taken in that direction. More importantly, the National Security Council, or MGK, has now decided to improve economic relations with northern Iraq. This was a first. This was taken as a sign of the Turkish Armed Forces changing its stiff attitude.
The right thing is being done.
If these steps persist and Barzani reciprocates, then the last big step will be the opening of a consulate general in Arbil.
For now, consul generals are sent to other places in Iraq whereas northern Iraq, which is more important for us, is being watched from a distance. This would be an important step in pulling Barzani more to our side. The Kurds know that in the long run in the region Turkey is the only country that will extend a helping hand. You see, as the central government in Baghdad strengthens, the relationship between Arabs and Kurds is slowly getting tense.
Events lived through since recent elections signal that Kurds won’t easily achieve what they want or be at ease anymore. The United States, too, does not treat the Kurds as before. Each of Barzani’s demands is no longer met. It seems that the Kurd’s comfort will, with the withdrawal of the US forces from the country in 2010, be completely disturbed.
In such an environment there will even be more importance attached to Turkey’s role.
Turkey will strengthen even further to such an extent as it can be the patron of its own Kurds and the Kurds in the region, and be in a position to more effectively fight against the PKK terror. Our star will shine proportionally to our ability to notice and accomplish what is necessary. Outer forces will then stop winking at the PKK. If we can only see the reality and take steps bravely.