Imagine a European Union member nation which represses an ethnic minority that makes up a fifth of its population. Now imagine the EU being forced to take sides in a domestic civil war within its own union in which ethnic cleansing is the order of the day. That is the fate awaiting the EU if it admits Turkey as it is.
The same elections that gave the Erdogan regime another term, also racked up political victory for Turkey's Kurds. Meanwhile chaos in Iraq and Syria may be setting the stage for Kurdish independence in both those countries. Iraq's Kurds already enjoy partial autonomy. Should Syria's Kurds achieve full or partial autonomy, then Turkey will be left to stand alone in its isolated policy of denying Kurdish rights.
From bombings by PKK militants to marches and political activism in occupied Northern Kurdistan, it is increasingly clear that there is no way forward for Turkey except through political autonomy in Northern Kurdistan. The Erdogan regime has filled its prisons and staged incursions into Western Kurdistan in Iraq. It has even been accused of using chemical weapons against civilians. But the Turkish perpetuation of the cycle of violence has not changed the determination of the region's Kurds to win their independence.
The Kurds remain a ticking time bomb inside Turkey. And no responsible European leader can accept Turkish entry into the EU until the Kurdish situation is resolved. Slightly relaxing the oppressive cultural restrictions is not enough. It is time that the Erdogan regime be made to understand that it faces a choice between maintaining the occupation of Northern Kurdistan and joining the community of nations.
After a generation of fighting the PKK, Turkey is no closer to defeating it. The PKK is not going away and neither is the dream of Kurdish independence. If the Erdogan regime wishes to maintain its borders in the face of Kurdish independence in Western Kurdistan, then it will have to negotiate with the same leaders it has been throwing in prison. Only by allowing an autonomous Kurdish state within the borders of occupied Northern Kurdistan, will Turkey gain stability and peace.
Accepting Kurdish autonomy in Northern Kurdistan will allow Turkey to avoid a full fledged civil war and a two state solution which will see portions of its territory annexed to Kurdistan. While the Erdogan regime is confident that Europe and the rest of the world will continue turning a blind eye to its repression of the Kurds, there is no doubt that this will change in the event of a civil war. The world will not stand by and witness another genocide carried out by Turkey. And it will certainly destroy Turkey's prospects for EU membership.
Autonomy or a two state solution is in Turkey's own best interests as well. Kurds have a higher birth rate than ethnic Turks do. Almost double. And that means that if Turkey fails to separate itself from the larger portion of its Kurdish population-- then all of Turkey will eventually be Kurdistan.
Ending Turkish occupation of Northern Kurdistan will also leave the Turkish economy in a better competitive position and reassure international observers concerned about its stability. It will also end the need for cross-border incursions which will sooner or later lead to war.
The Turkish government has a limited time frame in which it can advance a constructive solution. Its tactics of repression have failed, its cultural band aids will only encourage a burgeoning desire for independence and instability in Iraq, Syria and Iran mean that the creation of a Kurdish state on its border is only a matter of time. Now is the time for the Erdogan government to sit down with the political representatives of the Kurdish people and their resistance in pursuit of a negotiated solution.
Neo-Ottomanists within the Erdogan regime may still dream of an expanding empire, but there is no place for such thinking in any nation that wishes to be part of the European Union. And it is up to the European leadership to make it clear that Erdogan and Davutoglu must choose between imperialism and democracy. That Turkey's relationship with Europe depends on a negotiated settlement of the Kurdish question, as well as a recognition and restitution of the Armenian genocide, the termination of its occupation of Cyprus and eventual withdrawal from its occupation of Northern Kurdistan.
Turkey's economic successes should not be confused with political stability or human rights. And the admission of an unstable country at risk of fighting a bloody civil war against a fifth of its own population remains untenable. It also raises serious questions about the long term future of any foreign investment in Turkey. Particularly in conflict areas.
The Erdogan regime should not be allowed to imagine that like China it will be able to buy its way out of any uncomfortable questions about human rights using economic leverage. Turkey is not China and its high level of debt increase mean that it will not be able to outproduce and outexport its troubles. With budget deficits as high as 20 percent of its GDP and a troubled bond market, the Turkish future is not as bright as the AKP's oligarchs like to pretend. And domestic instability in the form of a large scale Kurdish uprising could easily bring Istanbul's house of cards tumbling down.
European leaders have spent too much time flattering the Erdogan regime and its oligarchy to share with them the hard truths that Turkey has no future without meaningful reform. And beneath all those reforms is the inescapable question of ending the occupation and achieving a settlement with the Kurdish people.
Turkey must be willing to choose between Kurdish autonomy or a withdrawal from occupied territory to pave the way for a Kurdish state. There is no third option. Maintaining the occupation and repression is not sustainable. And has no future.
If Istanbul really wishes to move forward, then it is time to begin holding peace talks that address the national and political rights of Kurdish citizens living in the occupied territories of Northern Kurdistan. With Turkey increasingly dependent on IMF aid, that aid should come with preconditions, including Turkish willingness to participate in a peace conference with legitimate representatives of the Kurdish people.
If Erdogan chooses to continue the repression of the Kurdish people, then Turkey will join the likes of Burma and North Korea as a rogue state, an Apartheid regime that will be brought down when the aspirations of the Kurdish people are finally achieved in a state of their own.