Why are we closer to peace?
After 29 years of armed conflict between the Turkish military and the guerillas of the Kurdistan Workers? Party (the PKK), and all those Newroz ?celebrations? passed under the shadow of mutual fear and distrust, now in the aftermath of Newroz 2013 a new beginning seems to be fast approaching for the peoples of Anatolia.
On March 21, jailed chief leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan addressed a letter* that marked the second step of the peace negotiations, known as the ?Imrali Process? between himself, Turkish government officials and the PKK. There could perhaps be no better timing than the Newroz, which literally means ?the New Day / Light? for the Persians, Azeris and the Kurds among other peoples, to deliver such a promising message that indeed could bring a new day; ending the armed conflict in Turkey opening the path to normalization for all those involved. While the timing of Ocalan?s call for a cease-fire is thoughtfully coordinated, the philosophical content of his declaration for peace goes beyond a singular point in time and space. In fact, it should be read as a multilayered and a post-nationalist text, hinted as ?democratic modernity?, proposing to deconstruct the suppressing and marginalizing pillars of the political regime that has been strictly held in place since the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. Interestingly, this theoretical framework resonates within the discourse of the new wave of Turkish foreign policy, which in the wake of the regional transformations in the Middle East and North Africa has inspired a fresh breeze encapsulating steps towards democratization, domestically.
It is of great interest to us to look further for any potential analogies that could be drawn between two entities, whose political perspectives cease to clash considerably. Some of the most noticeable overlapping elements could be found through a comparative analysis made between the meticulous lecture** of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu at the London School of Economics and Political Science, on 7 March 2013 and the chief of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan?s ?historic? letter. These are i) reassessing the impact of Eurocentric history on Anatolia and the Middle East, ii) reimagining the distinctive fabric of the peoples in this given geography, iii) reaching a consensus on peaceful and stable common future-building.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu in his lecture posited that, ?[w]e have to be aware that the Eurocentric culture reached to [its] limits. Now, there is a rise of authentic cultures, of old traditions. We have to admit them, we have to embrace them, we have to create a cultural inclusiveness.? This highlights how the existing political regimes in the region have undermined and marginalized cultural diversities of the places and the people they have dominated, proclaiming the necessity for unitary, single-voiced, and nationalist governance. Similarly, in the Newroz letter, the message stated: ?The creation of geographies based on ethnicity and a single nation is an inhuman fabrication of modernity that denies our roots and our origins.? In both perspectives, there is a critique of the artificiality of the arbitrary regional divisions born out of Eurocentrism, which has paradoxically torn people apart from their distinctive identities.
With regard to the reimagination of the wider region, the vision is to create such a space where people are able and willing to embrace alternative articulations of, what might be termed as a supra-nationalistic ethnic identity. This inclusive identity is shaped in flesh and bones within the context of Davutoglu?s suggested ?[?] new Middle East run by the people of the Middle East, not imposed by outsiders?, where ?[w]e will respect borders, we will respect all nations. But like Europe, European Union, we have to make these borders meaningless.? Under the protection of a such encompassing identity, the new model also proposed by Ocalan prioritizes an integrated sphere, where artificial boundaries no longer sweep over the people on either side.
How is this integrated sphere to be reconfigured? We have now arrived at a new discourse, which is determined to allow ?[?] no room for conquest, denial, rejection, forced assimilation or annihilation,? to borrow Ocalan?s words. Furthermore, ?[?] the new regional order in the Middle East should base on [?] high level political dialogue, a common security zone, an economic interdependency and a cultural inclusivity of city life? Davutoglu recommends. It is important to bear in mind that this new vocabulary has indeed been shaping the foreign policy and practices of Turkey for the last decade. It may be indicating a shift away from paranoid and strict nationalist policies towards harmonious, peaceful and mutually respectful co-existence of, in this case, the peoples of Anatolia. This co-existence is to be achieved out of the authentic value systems and inner dynamics, which do not take the Western model as the only horizon for emulation.
As Newroz 2013 demonstrated there is a strong will of all parties involved to perpetuate on the common grounds of suffering, as a foundation for lasting peace; almost calling to mind Ernest Renan?s famous lecture in 1882 What is a Nation?* According to Renan, the presence of a historical collective memory is as much important as the current consent of the people to live together as a whole to build a honorable future, which transcends real differences in language, religion, race, interests and geography. That acknowledged, transformation of the institutionalized and static mindset in Turkey is certainly not an easy process. However, in Davutoglu?s words, it appears certain that ?[n]ow we are living in such an accelerated flow of history, we cannot be static. We cannot have prejudices in our minds; we cannot have stereotypes [?]? Likewise, Ocalan insists that ?those who cannot understand the spirit of the age will end up in the dustbin of history. Those who resist the current, will fall into the abyss.?
Considering the aforementioned, hopes for an ultimate ceasefire and stable peace in Anatolia have never been as strong.
Ayşe Ezgi Yıldırım and Elsa Tulin Sen are PhD candidates in the Middle East and Mediterranean Studies Program at King?s College London.
* Abdullah Öcalan. ?Öcalan?s Newroz Statement ? Full Text.? Bianet. N.p., 21 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <http://www.bianet.org>
** H.E. Ahmet Davutoğlu. ?Transformation in World Politics.? Lecture. London School of Economics (LSE), London. 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. <<http://www.mfa.gov.tr>>
*** Ernest, Renan. What is a Nation? (Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?) [Lecture at Sorbonne, 11 March 1882 in Discours et Conférénces, Paris, Calman-Levy, 1887, pp. 277-310; also in Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny, ed. 1996. Becoming National: A Reader. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996: pp. 41-55]