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The following article by Sinan Dirlik, who served as TRNC Presidential Turkey Media Relations Consultant in the years 2005-2009, appeared in Yeni Düzen on 27 August 2011. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.


Turkey will be unable to democratise until it solves two big problems: the Cyprus and Kurdish problems. What is more, these are two fundamental problems that we must solve simultaneously or, at the very least, consecutively.

Just as they are mutually parallel, these two problems have aspects that invite close comparison. The Turkish Cypriots’ and Kurds’ demands have much in common, as do the Turkish Turks’ and Greek Cypriots’ attitudes and demeanour.

The Turkish Turks’ “prescribed viewpoint” holds that the Kurds are separatist, and this is how the Turkish Cypriots are perceived in the Greek Cypriots’ “prescribed viewpoint”.

The name Denktash has since the 1960’s had the same significance in the Greek Cypriots’ prescribed viewpoint as that of Öcalan has had in the Turkish Turks’ prescribed viewpoint as of the 1980’s.

Just as those in the south of Cyprus who wish for peace and argue for equal unity with the Turkish Cypriots have courted the anger of nationalists, those in Turkey who argue for equal unity with the Kurds have had to reckon with similar anger, or even worse.

The vast majority of Turkish Cypriots wish to live together within a “United Federal Republic of Cyprus” under “equal and free” conditions in which they are furnished with all of their rights originating from their ethnic identity. One segment favours incorporation into the Republic of Cyprus without condition or stipulation. Just as there are those who voice support for a United Federal Cyprus on condition of “equality”, there also without doubt exist strata who favour “separatism” and a separate state. Certainly, for defenders of the Greek Cypriot prescribed viewpoint and Turkish Cypriot radical nationalist separatists, “the notion of living together” is something that jars the nerves and assaults the ear, but even those furthest on the right are obliged to come out in support of a federation at least in “official settings”.

The vast majority of Kurds likewise wish for an “equal and free” unity within the Republic of Turkey in which all of their rights originating from their identity are guaranteed. Regardless of the state and the PKK, there still continues to exist a variety of aspirations about the future among Kurds. While a small segment speaks clearly of “separatism”, the supposedly separatist PKK is attempting to win acceptance by Kurds for “democratic autonomy”, which falls short even of the “European Charter of Local Self-Government”, concerning which the widest possible consensus has been achieved with respect to its inclusion within the new Republic of Turkey Constitution.

At this point, I cannot help drawing attention to what is probably the most hilarious side of this: with a supposedly “moderate” Kurdish leader like Kemal Burkay coming out in support of such a “progressive” solution as a Federation, a supposedly “radical” organisation like the PKK presents society with an “astonishingly reactionary” solution called “democratic autonomy”. Side splitting, isn’t it?

Then again, the stance dictated by Turkey’s prescribed viewpoint is certainly more hilarious than this.

Turkey’s prescribed viewpoint promotes “separatism” in Cyprus but “rigid unitarism” within its own territory.

One should look for the logical basis of the rigid unitarism of the Turkish official thesis in the manner in which it accounts for the concept of the state, because, according to the prescribed Turkish viewpoint, “people-language-religion-history-culture and national unity” constitute the fundamental components of the state. Based on this premise, defenders of the official Turkish viewpoint attempt to persuade us of the existence in Cyprus of two separate peoples with separate languages, separate religions, separate historical pasts and separate cultures who, in the final analysis, lack the desire to live together and, thus, of the impossibility of a “United Federal Cyprus”. Naturally, they also drag in the conflicts experienced since the 50’s and 60’s and “spilt Turkish blood”. Consequently, whenever prim politicians and military top brass speak of Cyprus, looking into our eyes, they promote the cause of separatism and chant the mantra of “two separate peoples, two separate states”.

The self-same prim politicians and military top brass, when the geographical setting shifts to Turkey, have until recently adopted a mindboggling position.

This is the root of nonsense to the effect that, “There are no Kurds; they are an old Turkish tribe who made a kart-kurt noise while walking in the mountains,” because if they consented to a Kurdish identity their “national unity” thesis would collapse. And collapse it indeed has! First they progressed from “There are no Kurds” to “We have been brothers for thousands of years” and they now say, “We are like hand and glove” and, amazingly, never miss an opportunity to take off the kid gloves and dish out some punishment!

This is the root of their assertion that, “There is no such language as Kurdish,” because if they accepted this, their “national unity” thesis would come crashing down. Has it crashed down? Indeed it has! They do not seem to be broadcasting in a dialect of Turkish on TRT Shesh, do they?

On the other hand, “concerns over conflict and security”, which constitute the basis for their separatism in Cyprus, bear down heavily. In the dirty war in Turkey forty thousand people died over thirty years. The Kahramanmaraş and Çorum massacres fit in here. This is conflict on a scale that far exceeds that in Cyprus. The same goes for security!

We have managed in eighty years to attain the truth that the population of Turkey is not a population consisting entirely of Turks and that not only Turkish is spoken in the geographical arena of Turkey. At the point of accepting the existence of a separate people speaking a separate language, you are willy-nilly obliged to accept that that people has its own history and culture. I mean to say, surely that people whose tongue you ripped out and existence you denied has a bitter history, very different from yours, and has created a bitter culture distilled out of that history. Does this mean to say that “joint history, joint culture” has collapsed?

So just what remains? The ideal of a joint future. The desire to live together.

It is in precisely this matter that the omens bode least well.

The decision as to whether to destroy “the ideal of a joint future and the desire to live together”, the sole common denominator that “will make it possible to live together” with the Kurds, is now in the hands of the State of the Republic of Turkey.

Turkey is today in full possession of the opportunity to announce that it has abandoned the policy of denial and destruction, of denying the existence of the Kurds, and to prove this:

A civil-democratic constitution based on constitutional citizenship that will indeed turn the country into a common homeland in which Turks, Kurds, Laz, Circassians, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Muslims, Alevis, Sunnis, Atheists, women and men, people of different sexual orientation, young people and children will be happy to live together and in which they will take pride!

In the face of the PKK’s insistence on the incredibly reactionary notion of “democratic autonomy”, an equal and honourable social partnership agreement which includes the European Charter of Local Self-Government and opens the way, within the scope of discussions about a civil constitution, if necessary, to discussion (and is prepared to say that everyone is at liberty to discuss everything) about a federation!

The way in which this dirty war that is on the verge of turning into a blood feud may finally be ended through an honourable agreement without “victor and vanquished” is by producing a civil-democratic constitution to which all of the people living in the geographical arena of Turkey may gladly consent.

This in any case is the fear of the pacifists of radical appearance! The fear of being deprived of initiative, of losing their positions! This is why, instead of sitting down and speedily drawing up a draft constitution, they have propagated the nonsense of democratic autonomy, whose meaning is unknown even to them. In fact, on the day on which we manage to enact a genuinely civil and genuinely democratic constitution, there will no longer be such a thing as a Kurdish problem in Turkey.

Just that day will be the day on which the official Turkish viewpoint as we know it comes to an end, such that this may simultaneously change Turkey’s perception of Cyprus.

Well, of course, we know that Turkey’s concern with Cyprus does not amount to a “heroic” national concern, as has been drilled into our heads. Of course, the truth is known to us that the time has come to spill the beans about “strategic interests” and “the desire to acquire a strong position on the energy map”. However, only when the habit of doing business behind the cloak of overblown heroic nationalism dies and when Turkish Turks and Turkish Cypriots agree on a settlement partnership “based on equality and mutual interests” may we discuss the new realities that life has confronted us with.

On that very day, the Turkish Cypriots will be able, at the table at which they sit down with Turkey, to act with a strength deriving from their geographical position and richness, with the honour of being a partner to a solution rather than a “kept people”.

The drawing up of a civil-democratic constitution, the formula that will simultaneously make both Turkish Cypriots and Turkey’s Kurds and also Turkey’s Turks happy, has surely got to be too serious and important a task to be left to the AKP alone.

Will everyone quit grumbling, get their noses to the grindstone and draw up a draft civil-democratic constitution and submit this for public discussion, or will people once again come out and say, “No to the AKP constitution?”

Those capitulators who say, “My dear fellow, the Constitution that will be drawn up in Turkey will be nothing but an AKP constitution” appear once again ready to abandon their duties and responsibilities! This is not on! There is enough time ahead! Get your experts together and draw up a draft constitution. Set up your stalls in the open and come out and tell the public what kind of constitution you want.

Either make preparations that will not condemn this country to an AKP constitution and wage open struggle, or remain silent for eternity!

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton