The following article published in Serbestiyet has been written by Vahap Coşkun following DPI’s CSV, ‘Civil Society’s Priorities for Peace: A Lesson Sharing Visit’ in Dublin, between 3 – 6 December 2021.
The chaotic environment that emerged after the collapse of the solution process in 2013-2015 has made it impossible to bring the issue to the table in the short term in Turkey. Even mentioning the name of the Kurdish issue has become difficult. A basic discussion, such as “There is a Kurdish issue.” Vs “No, there is not”, has captured politics. The fact that the current conditions are very unfavourable increases the responsibilities of the civil actors who argue that the solution lies in political mechanisms. The Irish experience provides an example that supports this.
Two weeks ago, we were in Dublin, the capital of Ireland, with a group of journalists, researchers and academics from Turkey for a study event held by the Democratic Progress Institute (DPI). Comparative study visits are very instructive to refresh the memory and to compare our situation. Oral Çalışlar shared his impressions of this visit (Serbetiyet, 7 and 8 December 2021); I would also like to make a few notes.
The Good Friday Agreement (Belfast Agreement) signed on 10 April 1998 was a turning point in the Northern Ireland issue, which has a lengthy historical background. The agreement envisioned a change in the constitution, the legal order and the penal system, the rebuilding of law enforcement, the release of detainees under certain conditions, and the expansion of civil rights. The parties advanced rapidly on some articles of the agreement; for example, the release of the detainees did not pose a big problem. However, the laying down of arms took time: a total of nine years.
The most outstanding achievement of the Good Friday Agreement was that it put a halt to deaths. But this point was not reached in a day. There had been three important peace attempts in the recent past: in 1974, 1985 and 1993. Although each effort failed for different reasons, it created an accumulation and eventually the agreement was reached in 1998. Ireland ended the conflicts and stopped being a country that constantly talks about death, that fears death and that is remembered by death.
Inclusivity is essential for success
According to former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, one of the architects of the agreement, the main reason for the success of the latest initiative was that it was inclusive; from women to youth, from workers to employers, it made all segments a part of the process. Peace processes have limited chances of success if they rely solely on elite negotiations. But inclusion also posed its own problems, two of which were particularly important:
First, it was not easy to design and implement such a process. In particular, the inclusion of those who resorted to violence worried politicians because of the harsh reactions of the victims. Second, the large number of actors involved fostered doubts and made negotiations difficult.
But it was better to keep any actor in rather than out. When the primary goal was to silence the guns, there was no better solution than to include as many people as possible and discuss the issues at the table.
A magic wand
There is no doubt that reaching a peace agreement is very valuable. But it is also necessary to know that not all problems will be solved immediately, as if with a magic wand, by signing the agreement. Transformation for the better is not like pushing a button. Some get stuck in the past and want to stay in the past. They put the future in parentheses and shape their life through the past. Peace brings many benefits, but mentalities do not change in a day, from morning to evening.
After peace, there are always other issues waiting to be resolved. Things that were never thought of in the past can turn into a problem. Likewise, when peace is placed at the centre of the agenda, big stories attract more attention, and decision-makers and opinion leaders are buried in these stories. Other vital issues such as poverty and unemployment, which concern large masses, are either get forgotten or do not receive the attention they should. This may disturb some segments of society and make them indifferent or opposed to peace.
In short, even if there is peace, the problems continue, and it is not possible to completely end everyone’s grievances. But this does not diminish the value of peace. The potential for a positive change depends on the cessation of conflict that increases the channels of dialogue and communication between people. The greatest achievement of a peace agreement is to end the deaths and turn the problems and demands arising from the past or present into a matter of democratic politics.
The acid that spilt on the table
But on the way to a peace agreement, violence can re-emerge, even after the agreement is signed. Those who sit at the table may leave the table, and conflicts may dominate social life again. This situation can be caused by various reasons, such as miscomprehension between the parties, parties not fulfilling their commitments or the belief that a possible peace works against personal, or organizational interests, as well as the emergence of new dynamics, etc.
However, the re-emergence of violence, even if stopped, creates the “effect of spilled acid on the table”. On the one hand, it resets the level of trust between parties and, on the other hand, it puts the political and civil actors that are in favour of a democratic solution in a difficult position. Getting back to the table then becomes very difficult.
In this context, civil society has essential duties. A strong and dynamic civil society can create an area of resistance when parties step back or turn away from the process. In times of conflict, civil society can bring different social groups together and act as a voice for those who are not heard or understood. A civil society that patiently and persistently strives to create the conditions for a political process and develops viable plans, projects and programs can contribute to peace.
Lesson for everyone
The chaotic environment that emerged after the collapse of the solution process in 2013-2015 has made it impossible to bring the issue to the table in the short term In Turkey. Even mentioning the name of the Kurdish issue has become difficult. A primitive discussion such as “There is a Kurdish issue.” “No, there is not” has captured politics. The fact that the current conditions are so unfavourable increases the responsibilities of the civil actors who argue that the solution lies in political mechanisms.
One final note: Sinn Fein is currently Northern Ireland’s largest party; It is stated that there is a high probability that this party will win the next elections. According to those who follow Irish politics closely, there are three reasons behind this success: The party’s orientation to social democratic programs, its application of organizational skills to the political arena, and the attraction of Catholic voters due to the problems arising from the Good Friday Agreement.
If Sinn Fein emerges victorious from the polls and forms the government as expected, it will be an experience to watch closely for Ireland and the UK. Politics wins, and the solution is in politics; there should be lessons for everyone to learn from this experience.
|Siyaset kazandırır – serbestiyet.comTürkiye’de 2013-2015 çözüm sürecinin yıkılmasının ardından oluşan kaotik ortam, sorunun kısa vadede siyasi masaya taşınmasını imkânsızlaştırdı. Kürt meselesinin adının anılması bile zorlaştı. “Kürt meselesi vardır. Hayır, yoktur” gibi ilkel bir tartışma siyaseti esir aldı. Mevcut şartların bu derece menfi olması, çözümün siyasi mekanizmalarda …serbestiyet.com