Nudging Turkey toward peace at home

High in the rugged peaks of southeastern Turkey, a 70-year-old Kurdish shepherd almost choked when he heard I was American.

“Why are you helping the Turks kill our boys?” he cried out. “Kurds are innocent people, peaceful people, good people. Whatever else you hear about us is a lie. They think they can finish us, but that is impossible.”

The long-festering Kurdish conflict, which in recent weeks has produced the death of 17 Turkish soldiers and a retaliation raid against insurgent bases in northern Iraq, is Turkey’s bleeding wound. More than 30,000 people have been killed since the PKK launched its rebellion in the mid-1980s. The government, by its own account, has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to repress it.

Yet although the long military campaign against Kurdish nationalism has by every measure been an utter failure, the state continues to pursue it.

The reason is evident: Turkish generals cannot break away from their paralysing fear that recognising Kurdish identity will set off a separatist wave that would ultimately tear Turkey apart. They refuse see Turkey as the multicultural mosaic that it is. Until they do, or until civilians manage to wrest control over Kurdish policy from them, this war will continue….


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