Hatip Dicle and Kurdish Soul Force

Hatip Dicle, independent Kurdish candidate for Turkish Parliament, has been stripped of his parliamentary victory by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) of Turkey. With it, Turkey has stripped away the last veneer of its façade of presumptive innocence. Any claim now that Turkey, whether from its judiciary or any other branch of government, is in any way shape or form working towards a rapprochement with the Kurds, can be, and must be, labelled a figment of nationalist imagination or collective delusion.

Mr Dicle won a seat on 12 June with 78,220 votes, or 11.2% of the total votes in the Diyarbakır province. He lost that seat on 21 June with 7 votes, or 100% of the total votes of the YSK judges. Their decision is symptomatic of deep-rooted antipathy towards Kurdish aspirations of parity in Turkish society.

Mr Dicle sits in prison charged with terrorism, as outlined by the country’s rigidly militaristic constitution and legal codes, which are only fraught with antediluvian notions of racism and intolerance. The judges claim that they are bound by the law of the land and have no choice. The AKP shrugs and says it is out of their hands. This nonchalant attitude is unacceptable and morally unconscionable.

The new Parliament, from which Dicle has been excluded, will be tasked with drafting a new, inclusive constitution, which everyone agrees is long overdue. However, a civilian constitution, regardless of its form or offerings, would only be a structural change. A new constitutional landscape is not going to change the deeply embedded attitudes or the psychocultural dynamics driving those attitudes. More simply, as Gandhi said, ‘The spirit of democracy is not a mechanical thing to be adjusted by abolition of forms. It requires change of heart.’

Any structural change needs to be accompanied by something deeper, more profound. A start would be an acknowledgement by the Turkish government of the decades of oppression and repressive policies against the Kurds, followed by a formally negotiated, public apology. It is from this point where ‘change of heart’ may begin to flourish, with the constitution as a guide, to begin national healing.

The Kurdish Democratic Society Congress has announced that without Dicle, no one from the newly-elected Block will enter Parliament. At the same time thousands are in the streets venting anger over the YSK decision and years of political harassment. What happens in the coming days will be crucial if any progress is to be made.

Martin Luther King, Jr, the great American civil rights leader, gave a speech in the summer of 1963 in which he said, ‘We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.’

The decision not to enter Parliament can be seen as dignity and discipline. The street protests must remain peaceful, for no healing can come from violence. Soul force, only. Kurdish soul force. And this too will be seen as coming from ‘the high plane.’

King continues in his speech, ‘In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.’

Let the cup of bitterness and hatred be drained. Let Hatip Dicle stand now, proudly, as the new symbol of Kurdish soul force. Let the name ‘Hatip Dicle’ ring out as a call for all Kurds to come together peacefully to overcome the ingrained institution of bigotry. Drink now from the cup of Kurdish soul force.

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