Loud music reached me last week when I was walking to the harbour of Üsküdar. It came from a campaign bus from the Saadet Partisi. Around the corner, other music took over: Mustafa Sarigül was just arriving to campaign in Üsküdar. The harbour square was covered with AKP flags, and one of the big streets in Üsküdar had many banners for the local MHP candidate. What a diversity here, I thought, compared to Diyarbakir! But then I thought again.
The different parties competing in Üsküdar don’t represent diversity. They, on the contrary, represent in essence the one concept that matters in Turkey to survive as a political party: Turkish nationalism. There are some differences of course, like the Saadet women wearing headscarves and the CHP women wearing their coiffeured hair do’s, but the basis of their thinking is nationalism – represented by middle aged men in suits.
Other parties have no role in the region
In Diyarbakir the diversity seems way less. The BDP is all over the city, and the streets get covered with AKP flags when Erdogan comes to town, and the AKP gets a fair share of the votes in both local and general elections as well. Other parties play no role. I have often heard that the regional power of the BDP and the PKK is anti-democratic. The hegenomy of the two organizations is even considered a danger and used as an argument against autonomy: a Kurdistan region in Turkey would be a PKK dictatorship, is the claim.
I think the hegemony of the PKK and BDP in the region were caused by the undemocratic framework the Kurds have to operate in. The ideology that every single other party in Turkey represents, from small ones like TKP and Isci Partisi to big ones like CHP and AKP, has given them no space to either live their identity or fight for their democratic rights in a legal way. The lack of diversity in Turkish politics caused the very existance of the PKK and the pro- Kurdish parties that were closed down one after the other.
Even the budgets don’t match
Therefore I’d say it is not necessarily democratic to demand more diversity in the Kurdish regions of Turkey now. Does for example the new player in the field, Hizbullah affiliated Hüda-Par, help democracy? Is it fair that the governing party has unlimited budget to campaign in the Kurdish region while the BDP gets no state funding because they are not a party in parliament but their group consists of independent MP’s because opf the 10% threshold? Whose democracy is that?
Within the current system, the Kurds have basically one goal: get the rights they are entitled to. Self determination is anchored in international law, full language rights and cultural rights are guaranteed in several international treaties that Turkey refuses to sign, and the existence of political prisoners has no place in any democracy. The PKK started fighting that system thirty years ago, and considered it crucial to control the Kurdish political landscape to be able to make a fist against the state and force changes.
The goal has by far not been reached. But one day it will be reached. Would it be realistic then to expect the PKK to back off immediately and leave the political landscape to other players? I once heard somebody claim that it would be only natural that the PKK has something to say in an Kurdistan region in Turkey because in the end they were the ones who liberated the Kurdish people. Would it, by comparison, have been logical if Atatürk would have disappeared from the scene after the Republic of Turkey had been established?
Or was it very natural that he who fought the war for independence lead the way after the battle was won? It would be cool though, if the PKK would have more confidence in it’s own people than Atatürk and the Turkish army had, and allow a colourful political landscape on the shortest term possible. And I think it is realistic to expect that.
Bese Hozat should have been demoted
The Kurdish political movement is way more diverse than all other political parties in Turkey combined. More than 40% women candidates for the local elections, the highest percentage of female representatives in parliament, an Assyrian MP (the first christian in Turkish parliament since the 60’s), multi language and multi religion policies in BDP municipalities, respect for the cultural heritage of other people than Kurds in the region. It’s a pity though, that the movement didn’t demote PKK co leader Bese Hozat when she recently ranted about Jews and Armenians in the Turkish parallel state – such remark are both ignorant and harmful and it would have been a powerful statement if her leading role would have been taken away from her.
Maybe I am wrong, maybe a Kurdistan region in Turkey would be a PKK dictatorship. I am eager to find out and report about whichever turn history takes.