Monday, June 6, 2011

Even MHP Recognizes the Kurdish Problem

PHOTO from Radikal

Even the ultra-nationalist MHP seems to recognize the Kurdish problem. In the party's first campaign rally in the mostly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir yesterday, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli went a step ahead of Erdogan in recognizing the persistence of the Kurdish problem (for story, in Turkish, click here).

In Diyarbakir last Wednesday, Prime Minister Erdogan declared the Kurdish problem "solved," seemingly closing the peace initiative his government announced in July 2009. In contrast, Bahceli said, "I know you have a problem, but the solution is not street protests." Bahceli, like Erdogan, called for more economic development in the region while arguing that amending the constitution to end prohibitions on education in mother tongue, a long-time and principal demand of many Kurds, will not "fill your stomach."

In the past, the MHP has taken the most hawkish position on the Kurdish issue. An ultra-nationalist Turkey party with historical roots to gangs that target leftists and nationalist Kurds, the party has little hope of being competitive in the region. At the same time, it is significant that even it felt the need to hold a campaign rally in Diyarbakir.

In his speech, Bahceli said Kurds are regarded as equal to Turks, stressing that they too are members of the Turkish "nation," a claim many more nationalist Kurds adamantly reject. While many Kurds are fine being Turkish citizens, the claim that they are Turks due to their bonds of citizenship with the Turkish state (a claim stipulated in Article 66 of the Turkish constitution) raises the ire of more than a small number.

The CHP has proposed amending the constitution to eliminate the controversial article so that Turkish citizenship will not longer beat an ethnic definition, a move which has been denounced by both the AKP and the MHP. It was the first mainline Turkish party in the history of the Turkish republic to do so.

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