‘Let trucks -- not tanks -- come’ 

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Sign the petition for Iraq's three-region solution December 6, 2007 ‘Let trucks -- not tanks -- come’  

Today's Zaman  - By Husyin Gulerce 

Turkey is currently struggling with a complicated and intricate problem: the Kurdish question and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorism. Resolving one will facilitate resolution of the other.  

The issue took on another dimension following the US invasion of Iraq. Circumstances have changed; new elements were included in the equilibrium. The most important three elements are the presence of the US in Iraq, the formation of a Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq and the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) election victory that weakened the PKK’s support base in southeast Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s visit to Washington laid down a new road map. There will be no confrontation with the US or the Barzani administration; there will be no row or tension between the US and Kurds.

How will the relations between Turkey and the northern Iraqi Kurdish administration be shaped in the new era?

Above all, our media should abandon calling Iraqi Kurds enemies and making irritating remarks about leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani. Second, the views of northern Iraqi Kurds on Turkey should be accurately transmitted to the Turkish public. What do the Iraqi Kurds think about Turkey? How do they see us? A group of journalists and academics together with NO TITLE GIVEN IN ORIG - I’VE ADDED Dialogue Eurasia Secretary-General Erkam Tufan Aytav paid a visit to northern Iraq under the sponsorship of the Journalists and Writers’ Foundation. I talked to Aytav on his impressions of the region.

There is direct flight from ?stanbul to Arbil. There is no visa requirement for admission; a passport is enough. Kurds call the Iraqi Kurdish region a “state.” There is no Iraqi flag in the region. They hate the PKK because they lost 3,500 people through conflict with PKK terrorists. They frequently reiterate that the Kurdish question concerns Turkey and that they simply want to remain as friends, further attesting that Turkey is an important country to their survival. They also recall that Turkey embraced Kurds that fled from persecution under the Saddam regime. They have no affinity to Syria or Iran. Arbil’s governor told visitors: “You have ruled tens of countries in three continents for centuries and you are saying you are unable to administer the Kurds in the Southeast? You are such a big country, what happened to you?” The delegation attracted attention from official authorities and ordinary people alike. People showed interest when they said they came from Turkey for at least two reasons: Turkish schools have been operating in the region for 15 years and people there have an affinity to Turkey. There are eight Turkish schools in northern Iraq. The university in Arbil is under construction. The Sema Hospital in Arbil is popular among the public because of the medical staff’s approach. The schools constitute an island of peace where no tension is observed. Kurds, Turkmens, Arabs, Assyrians, Muslims and Christians study in the same school. The northern Iraqi authorities frequently say that the schools have showed them that Turkey is not their enemy. They are preparing for the Turkish Language Olympics to be held next year. The delegation was touched by the recital of one of Mehmet Akif Ersoy’s poems by a Kurdish student. In an informal gathering, local people told delegates that they have had a life of suffering. They are eager to have trade relations with Turkey. As the delegation was on its way out they also told it that they want trucks instead of tanks.

Hostility and enmity bring us nowhere. There are millions who love us and who want to become friends with us in northern Iraq. The Turkish schools there illustrate what should be done to win hearts. 

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