A terrorist in parliament
The ‘oath crisis’ in parliament is still not over. Ever since both CHP and BDP refused to take the oath to be inaugurated in parliament, there is a lot of good will talk going on between different parties, but for now, it all leads totally nowhere. It’s been almost three weeks now, and no (for the outside world visible) concrete steps have been taken to solve the problem – or you would have to call opposition parties shaking hands and speaking positive words ‘concrete steps’. But by discussing the options, an intriguing question has come up: would it be possible a terrorist one day enters Turkish parliament?
One way to solve the problem, is to change the laws related to terrorism. One of the BDP MP’s can’t take his deserved seat in parliament because he was once convicted of ‘terror related crimes’, more precize ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organization’. Now if you would make it possible for people who have committed terror (related) crimes to enter parliament, would it one day open the way for the PKK-fighters to be elected? Could PKK-leader in the field Murat Karayilan be an MP, and, the biggest nightmare for many Turks, even jailed PKK-leader Abdullah Öcalan?
Thinking about this, my mind wandered off to a Turkey in which Karayilan and Öcalan would actually want to be candidate members of Turkish parliament. That would have to be a Turkey in which the Kurds finally have the cultural and political rights they deserve. In that Turkey, they apparently had a reason to lay down their arms. On the road towards that situation, they would at some point not be called ‘terrorists’ anymore, but ‘insurgents’, like also Cengiz Candar suggested in his recent report in which he proposes ways to solve the Kurdish issue and make PKK-fighters come down from the mountains.
Especially Öcalan would be seen as interlocutor, because whether you like it or not, he is seen as an important leader among part of the Kurds and shutting him out of any negotitation wouldn’t lead to a real solution. Anyway, the state has been talking to him for years already, although now it’s still to early for the state to openly confirm that.
But the actual discussion should, in my humble opinion, not be about persons. It was a dirty retoric trick of (now former) Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin to point out that in case of a legal change, also Ogun Samast (the murderer of Hrant Dink) would maybe one day be elected to be an MP. It muddies the waters of the discussion to talk about specific people. The basic rule should be that every Turkish citizen has and should keep the active and passive right to vote. Also if convicted, even if convicted for (crimes related to) terrorism. Okay, you can discuss when to convict somebody to have his passive right to vote taken from him, but that should be decided in an individual court case, not by general laws that are too much open to manipulative use, like now. And the instrument should be used extremely rare and only in extreme cases, since the passive and active right to vote are one of the most important basics of democracy.
So, extreme cases, that would include Öcalan and Karayilan, right, since terrorism against the state is one of the most serious crimes? Well, that depends. If Turkey in the coming years manages to slowly change the term ‘terrorism’ into ‘insurgency’ and actually sees the connection between PKK violence and the Kurdish issue and seriously starts working on the issue, the perspective on the PKK and their members might change. There would actually be a chance the PKK lays down its arms, and transfer from terrorists via insurgents to active members of a peaceful society. If that includes (to try) to become an MP, would be up to them, and if so, to the voters.
And Ogun Samast? In today’s Turkey, I can imagine a party that would actually consider putting him on their candidates list. But in the Turkey I imagine, extreme nationalism has no ground anymore. Talking about the Kurdish issue and solving it, can’t be done without discussing nationalism, identity, discussing what it means to be a Turkish citizen and at the same time be a Kurd, a Greek, a Turk, an Armenian, an Arab, or any other ethnic group that lives on this soil. There would be unity in diversity, less polarisation, and no party would want a nationalist killer as their MP, and not enough citizens would vote for him to get a seat anyway. The Turkey I imagine would be a full democracy.
I think that the best-case parallel for Turkish parliament right now is the Good Friday/Belfast Agreements in Northern Ireland of 1998: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Friday_Agreement
Sinn Fein has gone from terrorist organization to political organization very quickly and successfully. I’m sure Aengus Collins would have more intelligent things than me to say about the comparison, but that won’t stop me from writing up something later on this week.
Better than the Sinn Fein example is to look back at Ottoman history, and see how what we today call terrorists were handled by the earlier Ottoman Sultans. Ottomans very cleverly handled many such treats to their internal stability. Time to read some history before adopting the solution of a completely different case of smaller nations.