Diyarbakır, Suruç, Ankara, Paris: To wake up in hell

Kürt sorununu PKK’nın elinden almanın yolu aslında Kürt vatandaşların (ve diğerlerinin) farklılıklarının önüne konulan tüm yasakların kaldırılmasından geçiyordu. Ama başından beri bu gerçeğe “ülkeyi böleceği” gibi saçma bir görüşle karşı çıkanlar oldu belki hâlâ var ama eskisi kadar değil artık.

Halil Berktay

The Turkish original of this article was published as Diyarbakır, Suruç, Ankara, Paris: Bir cehenneme uyanmak on 14th November 2015.


[14 November 2015] First thing in the morning, still half-asleep I checked my cell phone, as I normally do, to see if they were any new messages or e-mails. There was a midnight WhatsApp note from my daughter in the US; “while it was all happening,” she said, fortunately her  Parisian friend (X) had been baby sitting, and she was eventually able to get back home all in one piece. “I was so stressed out,” she went on, “I couldn’t stop my hands and feet shaking.” Oh my god, I in turn thought, what can this possibly mean? What can have happened in Paris? I turned on the tv only to be stunned by what I saw. A veritable bloodbath. Virtually simultaneous, well-coordinated attacks at six different points. Some very young people involved, entering unmasked, and opening fire with Kalashnikov assault rifles to strafe everybody at random. At a youth concert, 120 dead. A café also frequented by youngsters, and another 40 dead. Bombs thrown at a friendly football match between France and Germany, and five or ten dead. The final death toll likely to reach 200. 


A country shell-shocked by a catastrophe a thousand times worse than the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Virtual paralysis. Its borders closed (if only briefly). All flights and trains cancelled. 1500 army troops sent into Paris. President Hollande announcing that he won’t be able to make it to Belek, Antalya, for the G-20 summit.


And of course, now Turkey, too, will have to cope with its own enormous security problem. This is something that it has already begun to face. Neither is it going to be only for the duration of the G-20 meeting. Subsequently, and for many months and years to come, and incomparably more than the West, it will be Turkey that has to live in closest proximity to the chaos in Iraq and Syria that has resulted from the crassest stupidity of American policy-making, and to continue to be a priority target for IS as the most extreme and aberrant form of Islamic jihadism — that same IS which has emerged as a creature of the chaos in question, and which has been able to gather strength and to find space for itself inside that chaos. 


This, then, is the bitter reality of our era which we have to confront. It is totally wrong to assert that terrorism has no ideology. If you are trying to say that we should not be feeling ourselves close to this or that form of terrorism on grounds of any perceived ideological affinity, that instead we should be equally hostile to each and every one of them, fine, but then do say so, and you would be in the right and we would all agree with you. But please do not claim that terrorism has no ideology, for actually all terror does have an ideology behind it. In fact, it is far closer to the truth to say that without ideology, there would be no terror. For the problem is this: Every now and then, certain great ideological movements emerge, and initially they might have a very absolute, extremely radical kind of outlook; in time, however, they reconcile themselves to coexisting with other thoughts and beliefs, adapting to life under democratic pluralism. Their mainstream and centre of gravity become more and more moderate, but meanwhile, as part of the same process their periphery, their fringes or extremities might react to become even more radical or ultra-radical, inclining to violence and terrorism.   


This is what once happened to Marxism and socialism right in front of our eyes; before collapsing altogether, its main trunk or body was growing somewhat more democratic but at the same time spawning numbers of left-terrorist splinter groups. Neither was it an absolute must for nationalism, more specifically the Turkish and Kurdish nationalisms of this country, to go and embrace and adhere to terror. In the 1960s and 70s, however, Turkish extreme nationalism had actually turned terrorist through the Grey Wolves or the MHP’s “Idealist” youth organization. And now it  is the PKK variant of Kurdish nationalism that is increasingly betting on nothing but violence. As for Islam and Islamism, especially in its dimension of yet another mass and global search for social justice, it may be said to have partially filled the space vacated by Marxism. And today, it, too, is going through a process of integration with modernity and democracy. It is experiencing the shocks and the differentiations or proliferations of this transition. The main body, the truly major groups or sections, will eventually be going through an adaptation to arrive (or have already arrived) at a state of peaceful coexistence. Turkey and the AKP are already the most advanced example of this development. But at the same time, precisely because of its broad dimensions which also engender heterogeneity, this contemporary, universal Islamic movement is also bound to produce some very radical, violent, terroristic extremities. And so it has come to pass. Jihadism as a whole is one such fringe or margin. And on the outer fringe of the fringe, there are Al Qaeda, IS and others which, yes, are blatantly Islamic terrorist organizations. 


Hence, just as once upon a time some relatively sincere and honest socialists felt the need to draw a line between themselves and all the evil that was being committed in the name of Marxism, sometimes succeeding but sometimes failing to do so, and when they failed (as in the case of their inability to thoroughly oppose and condemn the Soviet invasions of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, or Afghanistan), inevitably having to pay a heavy political price… So, today, the mainstream including the moderate, democratic variants of Islamism are willy nilly facing the same question. And it is not going to end easily, to disappear or to go away. Everything else aside; as long as Israel continues to bleed Palestine (and Palestine continues to bleed Israel); as long as the rubble of collapsing dictatorships turns into a chaotic breeding ground for the fanaticism of certain Sunni groups; as long as Iran in return pursues a kind of Pan-Shiite foreign policy, whether through its “great power” ambitions or by way of creating a security corridor around itself, but one way or the other further aggravating sectarian conflict, the Middle East cauldron will continue to boil. In turn, this will enable all ideological elements of special violence (or potential state nuclei) that, like IS or the PKK, may have already reached a certain critical mass to keep alive their hopes of forging a compact territoriality in order to become a full-fledged state. Furthermore, in practice such groups will tend to reinforce each other, with sometimes IS striking out and sometimes the PKK. Turkey cannot (by itself) solve the IS problem, but is certainly capable of solving its Kurdish question, and it is becoming ever more urgent to do so. If not, it is going to have to live with this double trouble for a long, long time. And let us drop this cold, distanced, impersonal tone; we all of us are going to have to live with it, in every minute and second of our daily lives.


Now for the West, or rather the Western media. Leave aside the question of whether they will ever be able to confront and accept their own historic responsibility in preparing the ground for and actually triggering this new wave of terror. Much more simply, are they going to take note of just how much more critical Turkey’s situation is compared to their own? [On this morning of 14th November] the first signs are that they are having difficulty seeing anything outside Europe. The CNN, for example, is talking of nothing but Charlie Hebdo and then this act of savagery. Or else, references to “France’s 9/11” or “its twin towers.” But what about Turkey? Is anybody capable of thinking and remembering to connect Diyarbakır, Suruç, and then the Ankara massacre with Beirut and Paris? No, not for a second did they display such concern and compassion for the Ankara victims. For when Turkey is involved, two other factors come into play. First, supposedly the AKP has been dancing and flirting with IS, and is continuing to play this double game. Second, the state might have had a hand in the Ankara massacre (that is to say, behind it might be none other than Erdoğan). This is nothing but trash talk, and yet it serves to blind some groups in the West, making it impossible for them to grasp the big picture.       


Precisely in the same way as it continues to blind the PKK, the HDP and the ruins of the Turkish left, sinking them into pure opportunism.