chapter  11
13 Pages

Elimination or integration of pro-Kurdish politics: Limits of the AKP’s democratic initiative

ByCUMA ÇIÇEK

Today’s new geopolitical conditions, and the Justice and Development Party’s (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) search for a neoliberal, proIslamic politics in the region, facilitate the ending of the Kurdish conflict in Turkey and the rebuilding of political relation with the Iraqi Kurds. Besides, the rise of pro-Kurdish politics within both Turkey and Iraq has nearly closed the door on the sustainability of the traditional security policy. However, the Turkish nationalist ideological-political character of the AKP, the lack of deep democratic values in the political tradition of neoliberal proIslamic politics, and the AKP’s weak administrative capacity concerning the Kurdish issue have prevented it from going beyond the traditional national security policy to solve the Kurdish issue and to disarm the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK). In May 2009, President Abdullah Gül stated that ‘good developments will

happen’ regarding the decades-old Kurdish issue. However, the results of the recent democratic initiative process launched by the ruling AKP have not confirmed the President’s claim. There has not been any considerable positive development towards a solution to the Kurdish issue, except that villages are now allowed to return to their ancient Kurdish names and that the ‘peace group,’ i.e. the returnees from the Qandil Mountains and the Makhmour refugee camp located in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, were released on 19 October 2009. On the contrary, while it has been alleged that the government’s democratic initiative aimed to find a peaceful and political solution to the Kurdish issue and to achieve the disarmament of the outlawed PKK, the limits of the political sphere have become much narrower in regards to the pro-Kurdish politics. During the democratization process, the Constitutional Court unanimously

decided to shut down the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi, DTP) on the grounds that it had become ‘a focus for activities against the indivisible integrity of the state with its country and nation, considering its actions and also ties with the terrorist organization’ (Official Gazette 2009). The court imposed a political ban on 37 party members for a

duration of five years, including co-chairs Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tug˘luk, who were removed from office as MPs (Official Gazette 2009). Likewise, about 1,500 Kurdish politicians, including mayors, vice presidents, former MPs, and directors of the central and local branches of the DTP were arrested. These arrests took place as the result of operations against the Union of Kurdistan Communities (Koma Civakên Kurdistan, KCK), an organization that allegedly functions as the urban branch of the PKK (Evrensel 2010). Furthermore, thousands of children aged between thirteen and eighteen have been prosecuted and tried as adults under the Anti/Terror Law for throwing stones at members of the police force. These children have been sentenced to imprisonment for several years. In Diyarbakır alone, 267 children were sentenced to imprisonment for several years in 2009, and prosecutions continued in 32 out of 81 provinces as of February 2010 (Yes¸il Gazete 2010). Although the government is trying to keep the democratic initiative on the public agenda, it has been forgotten in the western part of Turkey, and it has caused much disappointment in the Kurdish Region. The question that arises at this point is: How might one understand the

democratic initiative that was recently changed into the ‘Project for National Unity and Fraternity’? What have the aims of this project been? Has it already gotten bogged down? In this paper, it is argued that the new geopolitical conditions, and the the AKP’s search for a neoliberal, pro-Islamic politics in the region, provide opportunities for, and facilitate, ending the Kurdish conflict in Turkey and rebuilding peaceful and political relations with the Iraqi Kurds. On the other hand, the rise of pro-Kurdish politics both within Turkey and Iraq during the last decade has nearly closed the door on the sustainability of the traditional security policy represented by the Turkish Army. Yet the democratic initiative process has clearly shown that the AKP’s Turkish nationalist ideological-political character, the lack of the deep democratic values in the political tradition of neoliberal proIslamic politics, and its weak administrative capacity regarding the Kurdish issue have prevented it from going beyond the traditional national security policy to solve the Kurdish issue and to disarm the PKK. In the following section of the article, the background of the democratic

initiative is presented in order to demonstrate what dynamics oblige the government to solve the Kurdish issue. Then, in the third section, the limits of the AKP’s democratic initiative are presented. In the final part of the study, the AKP’s ideological, political, and administrative limits, which essentially determine the borders of the democratic initiative, are analyzed.