Turkey's Kurdish Spring: Historic Day Full of Hope -- Doubts Too

On Thursday, as the spring festival Nevruz was celebrated in Diyarbakır, its historic significance was far beyond the typical joy of jumping over fires.
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On Thursday, as the spring festival Nevruz was celebrated in Diyarbakır, its historic significance was far beyond the typical joy of jumping over fires.

For the millions of Kurds of Turkey it promises to go down in history as a powerful momentum, a memorable threshold towards the end of a decades-old oppression, severe denial and, most important of all, an endless wave of violence which generations of Kurds and Turks turned into an ethnic vendetta for almost three decades.

If anything, the bonfires of Nevruz just symbolize the evil, vicious circle of death and destruction. A lot of the answers to questions about the process will be found, and whether the mass jumping over them, and dancing, will truly mean bringing "peace at last" to this country in transition is to be seen. Diyarbakır's cheerful crowds, the hundreds of thousands of Kurds gathered under the (symbolic) sunshine, were keen on supporting all the civilian efforts to silence the language of weapons.

It inevitably has to do with Turkey's efforts to bring closure to the denial of their identity, of their never-ending quest for being treated as equal citizens, of their cry for freedom to speak in their native tongue and to have a decisive voice in the joint future of the country.

In a broader context, this is the most important part of a tarrditionally repressive state finally attempting to strike lasting peace with its citizens. It was at war -- of a different sort, varying from massacres and obstinate denial to fruitless assimilation -- with them decade after decade.

But the Turkish 'glasnost' under the ruling AKP meant that it has lost the war; "win-lose" should be over and it should be time for "win-win." Social transformation pressed through an irreversible progress.

From another vantage point, with yesterday's scene in Diyarbakır, where around a million Kurds gathered in a square, Turkey has once again demonstrated a striking paradox in a regional context.

While its southern neighborhood is entangled in nasty ethnic strife to varying degrees, again with Kurds as a focal point, Ankara has plunged into a civilian path, leaving aside the military solution, which if successful will set an example that might very well integrate the entire region's Kurdish hopes for a peaceful and prosperous future.

This dimension is one of the issues that Ankara, Arbil and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan have come to agree broadly upon.

That all this took place as Turkey's full membership process with the EU process has stagnated and as the US is more or less clueless about the significance of 2013 as the "year of the Kurds" also adds to the paradoxes.

Many observers have missed a key point in Turkey's Kurdish policies. It has been marked until recently by pulled brakes and reverse (due to the military and nothing else) moves.

But in sync with pushing the "hawkish elite" into a corner, the policy in the past decade has slowly changed its nature: It is proceeding forward by shifting gears and applying "stop and go" manners.

Every move by the AKP -- big or small -- helped to "normalize" the perceptions of the nation and assisted in a "wake-up call" for the people from an ultranationalist hypnosis.

Each and every step helped a 'normalisation'.

But, now, the question is how the key players of peace talks will deal with the opportunity that history is offering them. There is good reason for skepticism along with the joy of bonfires. There may be a broad agreement and a rough roadmap towards disarmament and reintegration of PKK rebels into society, but traps and risks are many.

On his side Öcalan has to deal with controlling the overenthusiastic-revanchist group of his supporters as well as the warmongers amongst the rebel commanders. He has much to do to convince them to a civilian, restrained language and behavior. He has to steer the correct course towards a farewell to arms. Otherwise, not only he but also Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani will lose their futures as well as Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan.

On his side, Erdoğan, who is still surfing on 50 percent voter support and every second citizen's backing of the 'Kurdish solution process', has a long way to go in building trust, managing Turkish side of public opinion, showing that he means business and success by a full democratization process, thereby also meeting Kurds' demands and letting go of punitive measures on free speech and legitimate activism.

He must also seek full legitimacy through Parliament, broaden his base of support, for a PKK pull-out of Turkish soil and reconciliation. He has the political mandate for doing that.

So, Diyarbakır's people jumped over a fire and welcomed the Kurdish spring. The real process begins from now on. If the negotiators really mean "win-win," even more than for themselves but for the good of Turkey, to set a fine example, the time to do so will come soon.

A hill is climbed before a mountain.

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