Setting aside the various daily developments that occupy the agenda, the “Kurdish question” has been the top political item of Turkey’s agenda for several decades. It is obvious that the resolution of this ethnic question, which has claimed the lives of over 40,000 Turkish citizens over the last 20 years, does not lie solely with security-oriented policies. Turkey must rally the collective intellectual capabilities of all its citizens and must not allow this internal strife to be prolonged any further. The issue has long been a destabilizing factor in the country’s socio-economic development, especially in its internal social harmony, providing the ready grounds for outside intervention in its internal affairs.
We noted in the past that there emerged a social and political awareness as to the fundamental causes of the Kurdish question. This meant, essentially, that it was not viewed solely as a question of internal security. However, we also noted that when certain democratic initiatives of the government failed or politically backfired in the past from time to time, the political authority has been quick to resort to the “security paradigm” out of short-term political concerns. Yet, the real mistake here is – and has always been – in seeing the problem as only that of the government(s) over all these years. That was not and should not be the way to approach a reconciliatory and lasting resolution of the problem. An issue as complex and deeply rooted as the Kurdish question, involving centuries of historical and social realities, must be addressed in its totality and through the consensus of all social elements in the country. As such, the correct political address to seek such a consensus must be the parliament in Ankara, where a platform of collective effort by all the stakeholders in the Kurdish question would be encouraged to allow for the broad consensus necessary for a meaningful resolution of this issue.
Related to this understanding, there have been a number of efforts by civil society elements to take this issue to the parliamentary platform and strive to reach a political consensus among the parties. The aim was that this parliamentary consensus would reflect the aspirations and needs of civil society in the whole country regarding the exact mechanisms to be implemented in the solution of the question. Taking into consideration these sensitivities, CHP prepared and submitted to the speaker of parliament a 10-point proposal for the resolution of the Kurdish question in Turkey. The initiative for social peace was submitted by the two vice-presidents of the CHP on May 31, 2012. This was a unique step toward encouraging and leading the left-wing and liberal political forces both inside and outside parliament to formulate and present a comprehensive, achievable and bi-partisan political resolution to the Kurdish issue.
In its 10-point Social Peace Initiative, CHP explained its current understanding of the issue and its proposed approach to addressing it in two main sections. In the first section, the party leadership noted its position on how the social fabric of Turkish society has come to the point of “near-collapse” as a result of the three-decade-long terrorist activity and violence in certain parts of the country. This violence has plagued social and economic development on a regional as well as national level, and drained substantial human and economic capital that would have otherwise been allocated to the progress and welfare of the people. Furthermore, the party leadership noted that a solution to the problem could not be achieved by military means only, but through the implementation of a mix of new social, economic and cultural policies in the region. The CHP finally noted that these policies would need to be formulated on a platform of social dialogue, reflecting a broad-based social and political consensus, and pointed to parliament as the venue of such consensus-building and the area of implementation for all the social and political parties involved.
In its second section, the proposal addressed the “how” part of the initiative. CHP proposes that a “Committee on Social Consensus” be instituted, within the auspices of the Turkish parliament. It also suggested that alongside the parliamentary Committee, a parallel non-parliamentary body should be established, as a group of “Wise People.” The Committee should consist of eight members, two from each of the four parties currently represented in parliament, while the “Wise People” group should consist of 12 members, each party nominating three non-parliamentary representatives.
CHP is proposing in its initiative that at the outset of the activities of these two entities, the government side would submit a “Status Report” to the Committee. This would be a comprehensive study describing and assessing all the plans, actions and experiences that have been gathered and implemented to date, regarding – but not limited to – issues related to the fight against terrorism, ending violence, and the disarmament of the civil elements in the southeastern region. The Committee would study and review this report, as well as all the other information and data acquired in consultation with other official agencies and parties in parliament. Meanwhile, the “Wise People” would take on the responsibility of serving as the “voice” of the non-parliamentary social forces, (i.e. parties not represented in parliament, civil society organizations, concerned citizens), and would represent and reflect their positions in the process. The two bodies would work in coordination and collaboration with each other, with the Committee preparing a final report based on the findings of both and submitting it to the parliament’s General Assembly, six months (at the latest) after starting its work. Parliament, after deliberation and discussion on the report, would then offer its recommendations to the government. The initiative’s provisions stipulate that all parties represented in parliament should lend their full political and organizational support to the efforts of these working entities and cooperate with them throughout the whole process.
CHP’s Initiative for Social Peace provides a mechanically simple working framework with powerful moral and political messages for the violence-ridden society. First of all, it puts parliament at the center of the peace-making process, as the center of all possible reconciliatory and consensus-building efforts for a resolution. Secondly, it provides a bi-partisan platform, freeing this national issue from all party-specific politics, electoral concerns, personal indignations, and makes it possible to address it in its most organic and fundamental characteristics. Finally, the initiative rallies, or aims to rally, the broadest and therefore the most potent political and social support in favor of any mechanisms that can end the ongoing violence, and pave the way to lasting social reconciliation and peace.
At a more macro level, emphasizing the role of parliament as the ultimate and supreme entity of political arbitration and consensus-providing will enhance and contribute to the strengthening of democratic institutions and practices in the country. It will increase the public’s confidence in its democratically-elected representatives and nurture a culture of tolerance and “democratic patience” among the citizens of Turkey, while also preserving the country’s unity.
CHP’s initiative, if carried out successfully, would indeed enable all social stakeholders to channel and register their thoughts directly with the government. This process would constitute a significant source of valuable information and offer alternative solutions in the government’s efforts to rule and resolve the issues faced during its work. Finally, there is no doubt that the sheer political and administrative weight of coping with an issue as dense and complex as the Kurdish question should, at least partly, be taken over by political and social actors other than just the government. This would make the burden of the solution to a national issue be shared by other parties at a national level.
CHP’s initiative for social peace, when announced publicly, was received with a fresh sense of hope and expectation in society. Several political and social actors have indicated that this initiative has already encouraged a certain atmosphere of reconciliation and peace in the country, which is quite conducive to productive and sincere deliberations on even the most burning social issues in the country. The two political organizations that have not yet publicly endorsed the proposed initiative are the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). These two parties essentially represent political platforms based on national identities: Turkish nationalism and Kurdish nationalism, respectively. However, it would not be surprising to see these two parties also taking close enough positions vis a vis the initiative for social peace somewhere along the process, and thus not be left out of one of the most critical turning points in the country’s recent history.
Having said that, the fact remains that it is the government which is ultimately empowered and responsible for the timely and proper implementation of policies that emerge out of any such initiative. As such, the statesmanship, level of sincerity, and serenity of the prime minister in implementing these policies still remains the critical factor in the success of the processes proposed by CHP.