Leyla Zana talks about perceptions of peace

Leyla Zana meets Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament

Below is the English text of Leyla Zana’s speech at the EU Turkey Civic Commission’s (EUTCC) 6th annual conference on EU, Turkey and the Kurds at the EU Parliament in Brussels.  The conference took place 03-04 February 2010 and the theme was ‘Turkey and the Kurdish conflict: Political dialogue & Peace-building.’

Esteemed participants,

I would like to extend my love to you all. Welcome.

The issue in hand is to build peace. We must then, frankly, boldly and sincerely ask and debate the questions that have so far merely crossed our minds…

How is peace perceived in Turkey?
What is peace for Kurds?
What does peace mean for Turks?
How do we define the issue for peace in Turkey?
How are we positioning the parties while we define it?
What are we doing to let the two peoples understand each other?
Are we really trying hard to enable values to be mutually understood?
How should the language and stance of peace be?

I would like to first talk about how peace is perceived by Kurds:

‘Peace’ in Batman is the recognition of the Kurdish identity,
In Uludere it is the yearning for education and learning in the mother tongue without any fear,
In Adiyaman, it is the right of Kurds to be able to talk and make recommendations about their future,
In Igdir, ‘peace’ is the emergence of the possibility for all differences to be able to live together and freely,
In Van, it is voluntary settlement, residence based on one’s will, instead of forced relocation
In Bingöl and Dersim, facing and settling accounts with the past,
In Istanbul, being able to see Kurdish characters on one’s birth certificate,
In Urfa it is to be able to call Sanliurfa, ‘Riha’,
Whereas in Diyarbakir it is the freedom to say ‘Kurdistan.’

Well, what does ‘peace’ mean for Turks?

For the west of Turkey, I do not have such concrete data as those I have itemised above. In some areas Peace is ‘surrendering’ or ‘liquidation’…
In other places it is for everyone to be ‘Turkish’ and remain ‘Turkish’…
Mostly, finding peace again, is taken to mean cleansing of the area from Kurds.

Peace, perceived as a gain among Kurds, is written off in the debit column for the majority in the west of the country. It is perceived as a loss of sovereignty, loss of status, loss of authority, and most importantly, the loss of the emotional reflex of being the principal founding element of the republic. Kurds’ demand for equal rights creates a real sense of loss. For those in the west of the country, the panic and concern that is created has turned, and continues to turn Kurds into almost creatures one should be fearful of. For this reason, a part of the society in Turkey perceives recognition of rights of Kurds as a confiscation of their own rights. On the contrary, the togetherness of Kurds and Turks must be perceived as strength for this country. If truth is not perceived the right way, acceptance may prove to be difficult.

Then, can we say that Kurds are envisaging a different life when they talk about ‘peace’? Well, what kind of life is it?

For instance;

Military aircraft should not fly across the skies of Kurds;
Armoured police personnel carriers should not roam the streets;
Military or police uniforms should not scare people off;
Trees should not be burned;
Plants should not be poisoned;
The fury of the children throwing stones at security forces should be quelled;
Whoever they may be, nobody’s dead body should be dragged around in the streets;
Their organs should not be mutilated.

In this case, for Kurds, peace has to do with the starting point, that is, the very essence and heart of the issue. It has to do with the fact that, just as a citizen of Turkey living in Bodrum is not confronted with armoured police personnel carriers when going to the bakery to buy bread in the morning, neither should the one living in Hakkari. The issue is to grant him the same right. The issue is to take care that this right is protected. The issue is to decide whether Hakkari belongs to this country, whether it is part of this country or not.

These two different pictures that emerge should not be interpreted as an issue between peoples: two psychological states, two sociological realities, two pasts, two cultures and two peoples. What is important and urgent is to be able to demonstrate the skill to be able to live together in the same state,www.ekurd.netdespite these dualities. Even during the hottest periods, conflict or hatred among the two peoples were not experienced. But to depend on this fact alone for peace, is an illusion. Other data is necessary to be able to accept the society’s will as a positive one. Looking for support without first accessing these facts leads to disillusionment.

Whether we call it solution or opening, in either case, unless the relevant parties or sides are included in the issue, lack of trust may increase. This mistrust nourished by uncertainty may lead to new fault lines. Additionally, the negative political discourse that spills over from the parliament to the streets and even to the media and the fact that this discourse is used as one which is used as if there is imminent danger of a civil war support this picture. This, in turn, adds fuel to new concerns. It weakens hope. Emphasises the feeling of we have won-we have been beaten, or the feeling of victory over defeat. It is observed that this feeling can be juxtaposed between the two peoples from time to time.

When this is the case, how will it be possible to understand and make others understand? Is the problem solely one of explaining or understanding? I believe reducing the issue solely to this level would both be superficial and also unfair. Within this context, I would like to make some suggestions to Turks, Kurds and our non-Turkish friends.

We are all agreed on the fact that this issue must be resolved through peaceful means. But there are some problems regarding the means, method, discourse and style regarding the solution. At this juncture, I believe we should not disregard some fault lines that are being experienced while all interested parties interests coincide on a compromise. While we are trying to build peace, we must state our point of view regarding the process, plainly and transparently. The issues that are debated, the relevant parties and positions must be defined with clarity. Because it will not be possible to support an initiative whose contents, plan and components are unknown.

We must always bear in mind that the Kurdish issue is a unique and multi-party issue. It should be borne in mind that pushing one of the parties outside the process will only deepen an impasse. Great care must be taken to refrain from saying the last thing that needs to be said right at the beginning. It is vitally important that persons, institutions and parties bearing political responsibility should be careful about their discourse.

In addition to all these, the State must make the people feel with its entire institutional domain that it has taken full ownership of the Kurdish Initiative. The people are questioning the state’s approach to the issue. This plays a major role in convincing the Turkish people for a solution. I am afraid that the majority of the Turkish people would not accept what the state does not want.

Moreover, no project or step that does not satisfy the PKK may not be acceptable for the majority of the Kurdish people. Then, starting of a political dialogue can only develop in direct proportion with the warring parties meeting at common points. Common points should be not to lose more people, prestige, energy, resources and time. Then, the parties must display an integral approach in discourse and practice and must avoid propaganda to the contrary. They must use their resources and area of influence to create a new language of discourse and organisation.

Dear friends,
Compromise, political dialogue and peace cannot be achieved without the other side. Then, the other side may be more important than we think. If one side believes it can make the old times survive while the other side expects revolutionary moves, it means the process is not moving forward. Of course, neither the Kurds nor the Turks should have a discourse and stance that is abstracted from the developing and changing world.

Distinguished participants,
Instead of hoping for some self-glorification from peace, let us all together facilitate peace.

There is a cry for peace coming from the very bosom of this geographical area full of conflicts. This is one strong scream. It is a stubborn cry as well as being a strong one. It is also full of conviction. It is one that dotes on its pride, and insistent on peace. This cry for peace will therefore definitely find its owner. It will flow into peace just as the waters of Tigris and Euphrates do so…

Thank you for being kind enough to listen to me.

I greet you all with respect and friendship.

Leyla Zana


One thought on “Leyla Zana talks about perceptions of peace

  1. slaw gelik spas bu hemu zehmetekant le pinaw welatda ,her serberz u serkewtu by.beryz ba bo riswa kirdny le sidaredan u duxy kurd le hemu kurdistan ripiwaniky sedan hezar nefery le ewrupa rikbxein.

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