Ekopolitik sets up moderate meeting of Turkey’s extremists
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News | 8/17/2010 12:00:00 AM | Sevil KÜÇÜKKOŞUM

Political psychology and conflict-resolution techniques are the latest tactics being employed in an effort to solve the Kurdish question.

Political psychology and conflict-resolution techniques are the latest tactics being employed in an effort to solve the Kurdish question, by bringing together clashing figures to share their issues and discuss potential solutions.
“The aim of the meetings is to gather the actors in society that could not come together [on their own]. We want to enable them to be friends and build a dialogue,” Tarık Çelenk, the general coordinator of the Association of Economics and Social Research, or Ekopolitik, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday.
The nongovernmental organization, working with leading political-psychology expert Vamık Volkan, has facilitated discussion between some 17 groups of Turkish and Kurdish nationalists, as well as other figures on clashing sides in the debate over the Kurdish issue.

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“The meetings do not have a topic. Kurdish participants may talk about how they have been insulted, while the other side shares its concerns about separatism,” Çelenk said, adding that the discussions, which Ekopolitik has dubbed the “Grand Dome of Turkey” meetings, have already helped bridge the divide between the groups.
During the most recent meetings in the southeastern provinces of Mersin and Hakkari, the group met with governors and mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. “We had difficulty entering Hakkari the first day, but by night we were at a Kurdish wedding, and [the Kurds] were shaking hands with [nationalist] Cezmi Bayram,” Çelenk said.
In addition to Bayram, other figures who have participated in the “big-tent” meetings include Seydi Fırat, a former member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and retired Cmdr. Mete Yarar, who fought for many years against the terrorist group, as well as Honorary Chairman of the European Turkish Islamic Confederation Musa Serdar Çelebi, former Deputy Intelligence Undersecretary Cevat Öneş and former BDP deputies.
“There are identity problems in Turkey in which people ‘otherize’ each other,” Çelenk said. “With the help of Vamık Volkan, we gather people using a methodological technique, the conflict-resolution method, which aims to bring enemies together.”
Though the meetings incorporate aspects of psychological analysis, simply fostering better communication may be their most important role, as demonstrated by a story Çelenk told about a conversation between Çelebi and Fırat on the controversial return of PKK members from their stronghold in the Kandil Mountains:
“Çelebi said, ‘If the ones coming from Kandil had held Turkish flags, I would have [prevented all the negative reactions] from nationalists in Turkey.’ Fırat replied: ‘We were ready to come down with Turkish flags, but nobody told us.’”
According to Çelenk, the method developed by Volkan for use with big groups asks questions such as: “How does a person become [part of] ‘us,’ instead of ‘me’?”; “How does a person sacrifice himself for ‘us’?”; “How can he use violence in the name of ‘us’?”; and “How does belonging strengthen?” Following the meetings, Ekopolitik prepares advice and publishes the conclusions on the group’s website.

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