Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Kurdish Kurdish Opening

I've been on the road lately, so I'm just now catching up on current developments. One article that jumped out at me is Henri Barkey's Aug. 31 piece on the Foreign Policy website, "Turkey's Silent Crisis." In the article, Barkey -- who just returned from a trip to Southeast Turkey -- takes a look at the resurgent Kurdish problem in Turkey and at some of the trouble brewing under the surface. One of the interesting developments he looks at is how Kurdish politicians in Turkey are increasingly organizing an effort to move towards some form of local self government (trying to nip this movement in the bud, the Turkish state is currently prosecuting dozens of Kurdish mayors in the southeast). From his article:

The end of the Kurdish opening has also served to consolidate Kurdish attitudes toward the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the primary legal Kurdish political organization. The BDP has close ties to the PKK and increasingly sees itself as the Turkish equivalent of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.

In the absence of political progress with the government, the BDP and Kurds in general are also beginning to put together the rudimentary institutional structures of self-governance in the southeastern provinces. The prosecution's 7,500-page indictment against members of the BDP, largely resting on conjecture and unsubstantiated allegations, nevertheless manages to sketch the contours of a parallel self-governance structure the Kurds have been attempting to put into place -- independent of Ankara.

For most activist Kurds, the PKK's armed insurrection is of secondary importance. The PKK, and especially its imprisoned leader Ocalan, is a symbolic force that they admire for raising the Kurdish issue to the forefront of Turkish politics. "Without the PKK, no one would be talking of Kurdish rights today," goes the refrain. At least in the southeastern provinces, Kurds now have an important advantage: control of the municipalities. This provides them with organizational capabilities to deepen their political struggle for recognition. Psychologically, the Turkish state may have already lost these provinces.

You can read the full article here. To get a better sense of what the BDP's leadership is thinking, take a look at this interesting interview with its co-chair, Gultan Kisanak, where she talks about the party's demands for decentralizing the Turkish state.

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