Saturday, November 28, 2009

Erdogan's and Gulen's inconsistent views about Turkey’s Kurdish problem: What they said then and what they say now
By Aland Mizell

Prime Minister Erdogan has launched what he calls a comprehensive approach to ending the Kurdish problem in Turkey. The initiative includes greater cultural rights for Kurds and some kind of semi-autonomy or local autonomy. In politics nothing happens by accident. If it happens, it is because it was planned that way. Yes, I support the program because it is the right thing to do, but why is the initiative being launched now? The answer is very simple. First, if Turkey wants to be a player and a leader in the Muslim world, Turkey must solve the Kurdish problem. Secondly, the Americans will leave Iraq soon, and Turkey wants to play a role in that region. Third, the majority of Kurds who live in Turkey are Sunni Muslim, and Erdogan needs their vote. The program is not because of Prime Minister Erdogan’s speech in the Turkish Parliament in early November defending a Kurdish democratic initiative. If he really means it, why did he not speak out when Leyla Zana and some other Kurds published an announcement in the French press saying that Turkey should become a truly democratic country which respects cultural variety and political pluralism? Instead, the Prime Minister said this was paramount to suicide. But Erdogan and his circles do not understand that what Kurds have wanted all along is equal justice for all, equality for all. Is the idea of democracy not that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it if they work hard for it? Kurds deserve justice and equality. False history gets made all day, but the truth of the new is never in the news.

Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is. Hypocrisy and distortion are passing currently under the name of religion. None of Fethullah Gulen’s media will print anything contrary to its own interests. Let’s hear what Mr. Gulen said about Leyla Zana’s democratic initiative and then what his journalists say now. “The views of politicians are not always as definitive as the law. But it is impossible not to agree with what Mr. Tayyip Erdogan said. ‘Regardless of how many ethnic groups there may be, whether it is Turks, Kurds, Circassians, Lazs, Georgians, Abkhazians or Gypsies, we have respect and love for all,’ Erdogan said.”

Mr.Gulen has gone on record saying that the second and eighth presidents of Turkey were Kurds, but he does not realize that when, if ever, those presidents- Inonu and Turgut Ozal- publically said they were Kurds or ever mentioned their being Kurdish, they would have been denounced. It is true, though, that for a long time if a person said, “I am a Turk,” no problem resulted, but when he or she said, “I am a Kurd,” that immediately became a problem. Mr. Gulen continued saying that many of the citizens from the east and southeast of Turkey have assumed important positions in various offices of the government: soldiers, governors, and mayors. Mr. Gulen was admitting this reality, but with no mention of what deprivations are being suffered, such that demands by Zana and others are proposed to counter the Kurds’condition. Mr. Gulen not only ignored the fact of past sufferings and the reality of current conditions, but also denied them and asked Leyla Zana to apologize. He admits, “I would expect them to return this gesture by saying, ‘We have been mistaken for our nation in the past, we were moved by our youth’; they should have taken a path that lead to unity and integrity. This did not happen. They owe an apology to the public” .

Mr. Gulen said that the demands listed in that announcement were disrespectful and also that 95 % do not ask for such demands, nor do they think there is such injustice or problems. He announced that Erdogan’s administration had made conciliatory efforts toward those who had perpetrated “the terror.” According to Mr. Gulen, only 500 people think such injustice exists, but today ironically the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the third party in the Turkish Parliament, represents them. They are the party that has been pushing for this fairness for more than a decade, not Erdogan. For those who ignore and deny the Kurd’s plight, and indeed say that there is no such thing as a Kurdish problem or injustice, they are the ones who owe the apology to the Kurdish people and to the public. Leaders who sent this confusing message to their followers should apologize for being ignorant about decades of Kurdish suffering.

I do believe that every calling is great when greatly pursued. Our ideas, however, must be grounded in reality, be such reality concrete or abstract; our ideas must develop out of facts and out of principles. The Prime Minister often seems to be trying to be all things to all people. Morality becomes hypocrisy unless it means accepting the Kurdish people’s suffering; accepting that the Kurdish people live in misery. In 1994, the Kurdish Parliamentarian Leyla Zana was jailed for treason for taking the oath of office in her Kurdish language and spent a decade in prison. I wonder what kind of eye cannot see, what kind of ear cannot hear, and what kind of conscience cannot feel the suffering the Kurdish people have gone through. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moment of good and comfort, but where he stands at the time of challenges, difficulties and, controversies. Mr. Gulen, you must be very famous; you are now one of the hundred most intellectual people in the world; perhaps you will soon get the Nobel Peace Prize as well. You must know lots of things, but the Kurdish people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care about them. What did you do for them during their suffering? Did you cry for them?

Where did Gulen and Erdogan stand then? When so many Kurdish people could not study in their mother language, did they speak out in theirs? More than 30 thousand--mostly Kurdish people--lost their lives in the conflict, more than 5000 villages were burned or otherwise destroyed; thousands of Kurdish people were forced to leave their homes to move to city ghettos to survive; thousands of Kurds were kidnapped and no one knows their fate; many women were raped, tortured, and degraded. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about justice and cruelty. How can they see mothers, children, men, and women whose faces show the suffering of the Kurdish people? Yet you, Mr. Gulen, managed to escape to America, the land of freedom; now you manage your empire from there; you write and talk about Allah and the suffering of the Turkish people; you cried for the Turkish people in Central Asia, Central Europe, and around the world, but how could you not feel sadness for Ugur’s mother whose 13 year-old son was shot by the police? You talk about Allah, justice, democracy, and human rights, but how can you ignore the Kurdish people and still claim there is no problem? If you look at their real plight, how can you talk about morality, interfaith dialogue, respect, love, and tolerance while denying the Kurdish people’s suffering? The Kurds are denied their identity, their culture, their language, their naming their own children, their using their own land, and their living in freedom and security

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. If a person is careless with the truth in small matters, he cannot be trusted with the important matters. The other day Prime Minister Erdogan used the word massacre because he was criticizing a remark that Onur Oymen of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) made during a plenary session in the Turkish Parliament. The Prime Minister had issued a statement about Armenia and Darfur and said that Muslims cannot commit a massacre. Were those who killed so many Alevi Kurds not Muslim? The Dersim debate in the Turkish Parliament, evoking memories of the republican military’s suppression of a rebellion during Ataturk’s era, means Erdogan is not being consistent and honest but instead is trying to take advantage and engage in political exploitation of the Dersim revolt for electoral gain. But people should reevaluate Mr. Erdogan’s and Gulen’s real agenda. I do believe Oymen’s comments were not conciliatory or wise, but I do not think it is a good for Erdogan to use it for political show. What about the Armenian Genocide or the Kurds in Southeastern Turkey?

Prime Minister Erdogan has an inconsistent view of Kurdish issues. When Ahmet Turk, the leader of the DPT and Kurdish rights activist, addressed Parliament, he spoke in his native language, a natural result of the Kurds’ oppression and of many of them not knowing any other language. The state television immediately stopped broadcasting the speech. During his visit to Russia in 2002, Prime Minister Erdogan in answering a group of journalists about the Kurdish problem said that there is no such thing as a Kurdish problem in Turkey. Prime Minister, if you believe that there is no such problem, then there will be a problem. Erdogan denied that such a problem exists. But in a recent speech in Parliament the Prime Minister asked the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) about this problem. It has been a problem for more than 25 years, but you, Mr. Erdogan, have not done anything about it during your administration. In a state visit to Norway in 2005, Erdogan, speaking of Turkey’s diversity, said he is married to an Arab from Siirt, and that they have inter marriage, so they do not have a problem. But then before his trip to Diyarbakir in 2008, Erdogan commented on what now will happen to the Kurdish question. He said, “It will be my question” and explained that “the Kurds can say ‘I am a Kurd,’ Turks could say ‘I am Turk,’ and Laz could say,’ I am a Laz.’” But when Erdogan visited the USA, again, he denied the Kurdish problem, saying, “There is no Kurdish problem” and giving the example that he has been married to an Arab for 29 years and that they do not have any problems, so there is no problem in Turkey.

In 2007 when the Turkish government launched the military campaign against the PKK, Erdogan refused to meet with Barzani and claimed that Turkey recognizes the Iraq central government and therefore that he could not meet with a tribal leader, but recently Erdogan invited Barzani to Turkey and sent his Foreign Minister Gul to visit a tribal leader. In 2008, in his speech in Hakkari, Erdogan announced, “We have said, ‘One nation, one flag, one motherland and one state.’ They are opposed to this. Those who oppose this should leave.” How clever is the Prime Minister. He never means a single word that he says. We say to him, “You can fool some of the Kurdish people all the time and all of them some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

“Erdoan’s Parliament address Democratic Initiative” Hurriyet Planet. Nov. 14, 2009.

“Identity, Kurd Issue, and Central Asia.” Fethullah Gulen website, Jan. 13, 2005.

“Erdogan’s Comment Rattle Kurds in Diyarbakir.” Today’s Zaman. Nov. 4, 2008.

Dr. Aland Mizell is a regular writer and is with the MCI and can be contacted at