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Peace initiative to create a public conscience on Kurdish issue

Tuesday 16 January 2007, by Emine Kart

Source : Turkish Daily News, 12-01-2007

‘Militarism and militancy are nourishing each other. It is now time to produce integrity from our differences; peace from our fights and trust from our doubts and fears,’ says the peace initiative, which will hold the ‘Turkey Seeking Its Peace’ conference over the weekend in Ankara

This weekend intellectuals will hold a conference in the Turkish capital to seek paths toward societal peace by helping to shape a public conscience about the bitter Kurdish issue. Renowned Turkish intellectual Cemil Meriç once described how an intellectual can represent his country: “I would like to be the conscience of an era — to put it more succinctly, of a country.”

When the two words, “the Kurdish issue” and “conference” are used in the same sentence, one cannot avoid saying, “Yet, another conference, so what?” Nevertheless, both the participants’ profiles and the conference’s initial target promises to be different from several conferences, which closed with final declarations addressed to the government, the military or the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Neither the Kurdish issue nor the fight against the PKK, in which the country has spent tens of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of lives over more than two decades, has ever dropped from the agenda. Yet, most of the time, debates on the Kurdish issue have been overshadowed by the fight against the PKK, turning the Kurdish issue solely into a matter of security.

More than 50 prominent authors, journalists, labor union representatives, human rights activists, academics and politicians from various ideological traditions signed the public call for the conference titled, “Turkey Seeking Its Peace.”
Professor Cengiz Güleç, a psychiatrist and former member of Parliament from the Democratic Left Party (DSP), is one of those names.
We’re not and will not be looking for a magic formula to be created during the two-day conference in order to be presented to the counterparts of the issue like it has been done in these kinds of conferences up to date,” Güleç said in an interview with the Turkish Daily News.

‘We don’t want a river disappearing in the desert’

Güleç continued: “What usually happens, particularly regarding the Kurdish issue, is to gather a group of intellectuals at a certain period of time; then they draw up a road map or formula that they outline in a final declaration and eventually disperse as if the mission is accomplished,” he added, resorting to a metaphor for better expressing himself, “We don’t want this initiative to be a river eventually disappearing in the desert.

Yet, what we plan and wish for is communicating our call for societal peace to the citizens in order to keep a public conscience permanently aground. We also aim at transforming this peace initiative into an institutionalized body that will lead to societal opposition.

While considering the diversity of participants regarding their ideological tendencies, Güleç explained that during the two-year preparation process in different regions of the country, some groups in the past had been in favor of the PKK’s armed conflict. Those groups who later changed their minds and asserted that the best solution should be sought through democratization have also lent support to the initiative.
One of the initiative’s mottos is: “Militarism and militancy are nourishing each other. It is now time for producing integrity from our differences, peace from our fights and trust from our doubts and fears.
The initiative makes the assertion that “peace is not a passive concept, but is something, which needs to be built.”
“When ‘the peace of citizens’ that we will build turns into a collective will, then our democracy will also become stronger, while our country becomes richer. We, citizens, have to build the peace. This is both a human right and a civic responsibility.”

Creating a language of peace via empathy

Two internationally renowned authors, Mehmed Uzun and Yaşar Kemal, will honor this weekend’s conference in Ankara. Explaining these two authors’ importance for this country or their special places in literature is beyond the limits of this article. Nevertheless, the significance and participation of these two prominent figures is noteworthy by itself, especially when Yeşim Dorman, author and human rights activist, of the peace initiative pointed out the need for an overall transformation of mainstream language.
“The language, particularly used in the media and advertisement sector, is full of codes which fundamentally serve to humiliate the Kurdish people by wrongly portraying their culture,” Dorman told the TDN. “A language of peace has to be built from the beginning and in the daily lives, not in the academia,” she added.
Different aspects pointed out by Güleç and Dorman actually refer to the same concept: empathy.
Experts say that the absence of empathy is related to fears; and as both Güleç and Dorman have said, this weekend’s conference will try to show that “we, Turkey’s peoples don’t have to be afraid of each other and therefore don’t have to live a life based on an artificial division of ‘us and others.’”

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