There seems to be a strong disagreement among officials of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) on the government's recently announced move to settle the decades-old Kurdish question, which may take the party to a parting of ways. Though CHP leader Deniz Baykal frequently voices staunch opposition to ongoing efforts toward the solution of the problem, several members of the party have expressed discontentment with the party's position on the issue.
“Whoever solves this problem will no doubt go down in history. We call it the Kurdish question, but it is the question of the whole of Turkey. As the CHP, we have mistakes and deficiencies on the issue,” Gürsel Tekin, head of the İstanbul branch of the main opposition party, who became the symbol of change ahead of the March 29 local polls, told a Turkish daily.
Tekin's remarks came as criticism of his party, whose leader reiterated his party's earlier concerns and the “red lines,” or intellectual barriers, the CHP would never agree to cross on Tuesday. Stressing that his party is against any project based on ethnic segregation, Baykal accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of confusing “ethnic” identity with the concept of “national” identity. CHP Ankara deputy Eşref Erdem said everyone should support the peace process launched by the government till the very end.
Contrary to their leader's staunch opposition to ongoing governmental efforts for the settlement of the longstanding Kurdish question, some members of the main opposition CHP have voiced strong support for the move, urging the government to address the question in depth and from all perspectives
“We should support whoever gears up to solve this problem without the slightest concern or reservation. We should be courageous in the search for a solution. With the stance it has adopted today, the CHP is contradicting its past positions on the issue. The CHP is trying to feed off the deadlock on the issue. This is giving a bad image,” he remarked.
The CHP's preference for a deadlock on the Kurdish question saddens the party's members of Kurdish origin.
Şevket Gürsoy, the party's Adıyaman deputy, said he expected the prime minister to visit opposition parties and provide them with detailed information on the much-anticipated plan.
“No matter what it is called, if there is a problem at hand, we should contribute to its solution. The mistake of the ruling party is its undecidedness as to what they will do for the solution of the problem. Our esteemed prime minister should absolutely meet with the CHP leader. If such a meeting takes place, I am sure the problem will be solved more easily,” the deputy stated.
Interior Minister Beşir Atalay, the coordinator of the Kurdish initiative, requested a meeting with the CHP leader earlier this week, but was denied an appointment. Baykal later said he would prefer to meet with Prime Minister Erdoğan to discuss the initiative, rather than the interior minister.
The CHP's opposition to the government's efforts to settle the Kurdish question, however, contradicts its past initiatives.
In a December 2007 speech, Baykal asked government officials to bring Kurdish youths from northern Iraq to Turkey to receive education at Turkish universities.
Similarly, during a visit to Şanlıurfa ahead of the March 29 local elections, the CHP leader said he welcomed the presence of all ethnicities in Turkey.
Gov't dubs Kurdish initiative ‘democratization process’
In the face of mounting pressure from the opposition, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has decided to name the ongoing efforts to settle the Kurdish question a “democratization process” instead of a “Kurdish initiative.”
After a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Erdoğan assigned deputy prime ministers Bülent Arınç and Cemil Çiçek the duty of finding a more appropriate title for the new plan to solve the longstanding Kurdish problem.
Dwelling on the much-anticipated plan on Tuesday, Arınç termed the initiative “a step for democratization.” Suat Kılıç, parliamentary group deputy chairman, said it was the media who called the plan a “Kurdish initiative.”
“It was not us who termed the move that way. It was the media. All these efforts are a part of steps toward democratization,” he noted.
The government reportedly decided to change the name of the plan upon a proposal by unnamed ministers, who warned that the Kurdish question would remain unsolved unless it was named properly.
“We don't have a project named the Kurdish initiative. We are working on a democratization process. Our government has plans for a democratization initiative,” stated Arınç on Tuesday in the eastern province of Malatya.
Speaking to Today's Zaman, Kılıç said the government was focused on a plan that would bring more democratization and higher human rights standards to the country.
“From the very beginning, we have called the move a democratization process. Because we handle it in a manner to include all of our people in the expansion of the scope of individual rights, the rule of law and improvement of our democratic standards. Just as reforms within the European Union harmonization process were realized not because the EU asked us to do but as we wished to respond to the needs of our people, we will implement the ongoing democratization process to meet the needs of our citizens,” he noted.
Similarly, the pro-Kurdish DTP calls governmental efforts to settle the Kurdish issue a “question of democratization.” DTP Co-Chairwoman Emine Ayna stated on Tuesday that the Kurdish problem would not be solved unless Turkey becomes a more democratic country.