This is a historic period. Despite the misunderstanding over a ‘ceasfire’ in the Turkish media and public, the PKK’s jailed leader Ocalan in fact did ask the guerillas to move out of Turkey on March 21, as Kurds celebrated the beginning of the spring, Newroz. His speech’s motto was that it is time for “politics” rather than “armed struggle”. His promising call, read both in Kurdish and Turkish, was slightly puzzling. But three overall points stand out; a call harmony, a rather selective critique of the Kemalist nation state and a request for forgiveness.
Last weekend I was in Miami, FL for a conference. I managed to find time to escape Miami’s touristic nature and visit Little Havana or home of the many Cubans who escaped the Castro regime. The neighborhood tells a lot about its nature as you enter the 8th SW Street. First, there is only one main street in which all businesses are located and people are much warmer and poor than an ordinary people living in Miami. Apartments are relatively old, modest and simple. Don’t be surprised if you see the manifestations of poverty in this neighborhood because the system is designed to leave them out of the ladder. The streets are almost empty not because there are not many living in the area but because many are working. Cubans usually work either as taxi drivers or as waiters/waitresses in the black market. From my observation, it seems not many have managed to rise to important positions because of the restrictive immigration laws in the U.S. Further, I realized that none of the major communication carriers were present in Little Havana and one could only see a CVS and Walgreens. I really wonder why big US companies are not there.
As the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) takes a major democratic step and negotiates peace with the representatives of the Kurdish people, a major problem has surfaced again in Turkey: media-government relations. TheMilliyet daily newspaper published the transcripts of the meeting between some Kurdish MP’s and the leader of the PKK Abdullah Ocalan. This significant coverage, however, was somehow leaked and the PM Erdogan slammed the newspaper and columnists for publishing the transcript. Not surprisingly, some influential Milliyet columnists including Hasan Cemal, who support the government’s democratization programme for the most part, were censored by the owner of the Milliyet, Mr. Erdogan Demiroren. Given the fact that many journalists are also jailed for their alleged involvement in attempts to overthrow the AKP government, PM Erdogan’s attack on journalists and Mr. Demiroren’s self-censorship has a debilitating effect on Turkey’s record of freedom of speech and causes suspicion about its democratization efforts.
On Wednesday evening, I was invited to an event at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The fascinating atmosphere is breathtaking. I had the honor to meet scholars Roger Owen, Philip Khoury, Tareq Masoud and many other academy members. This is important to me as I could the passion for studying arts and sciences. Even those emeritus professors were truly happy to be there to learn new perspectives, discuss the direction the Middle East taking and exchange perspectives.
As the Syrian crisis deepens, criticisms against the AKP’s foreign policy from opposition parties and the international community have significantly increased. In parallel to axis shift and neo-Ottomanism discussions, there is criticism of Prime Minister Erdogan’s provocative Shanghai threat to the EU, the failure of ‘zero problems with neighbours’ policy and Foreign Affairs Minister Davutoglu’s one man show style. So, after ten years in power, how do we assess the AKP’s foreign policy?
Imagine a Turkish PM who argues that the Turkish nation and its nationalism is superior to those of the Kurdish people. Consider a Kurdish PM in the parliament putting Caussacian and Bosniac descendant of Turkish citizens into their ‘inferior’ place. Both scenes happened in the Turkish Parliament last week. Why are the statements these Turkish nationalist and Kurdish nationalist MPs make so very similar? What do these two scenes tell us about identity politics in Turkey and peace negotiations between the AKP government and Ocalan?