Letters

National identity and the Kurds in Turkey I would like to commend the Christian Science Monitor on an insightful editorial ("The Ocalan Opportunity" July 7). This is a very complex issue that is often portrayed simply as an ethnic minority ruthlessly being oppressed. The comparison with Hispanics in the US was right on the mark. The issue is national vs. ethnic identity. Referring to your example, it's as if being Latino-American, or in this case a Kurdish Turk, would not be enough. Those Kurdish factions that threaten Turkish sovereignty by seeking to carve out their own homeland from Turkish territory want to change their ethnic identity into a national identity. But the conflict going on in southeast Turkey is not necessarily purely a case of identity and ethnic conflict.

The Southeast's geography and history lends itself to an agrarian economy, which is based on animal husbandry. The economic situation has been traditionally poorer and less developed. It just so happens that this area is majority Kurdish. As Turkey began to develop more rapidly during the zal presidency, the Southeast did not feel the affects as much. Not to mention a coup d'tat or two to tighten democratic freedoms. So the economically less-developed area, again, which happens to be composed of a majority of a particular ethnic group, feels the pressure. That's when [Abdullah] Ocalan and the PKK show up on the scene spouting Marxist-Leninist ideology with the twist of exploiting Kurdish nationalism. When the PKK started a campaign of violence in the southeast over 14 years ago, investors were quick to pull out and unwilling to go back in the area.

In fact, the government sponsored Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP), which was in development 14 years ago to irrigate the area and bring in investment, had to be suspended because of the violence.

The capture of Ocalan indeed has created a great opportunity for Turkey to open a dialogue for peace in the southeast.

Europe's refusal to arrest and extradite Ocalan, the nonrecognition of the Turkish Cypriot rights, and admitted support by the Greek government (fellow NATO member) of the PKK, has led Turkey to be understandably wary of European advice and input.

Aylin Acikalin, Washington

Revisiting the Marshall Plan Probably the most effective way to energize a cohesive effort by Serbian opposition forces to oust the Milosevic regime a change advocated in your editorial, "The Outlook for Serbia," (June 28) would be a dramatic initiative by the world's industrial powers for economic development of the Balkans. High standards set on a wide range of issues would necessitate drastic political reform in Belgrade for Yugoslavia to participate.

A properly orchestrated initiative should adapt the essentials of the Marshall Plan that contributed so much to the reconstruction of war-torn Europe a half-century ago. Not the Marshall Plan as plan, but the Marshall Plan as process. Adapting the process to the Balkan situation today means implementing a coherent initiative by the world's industrial powers and inviting the Balkan countries to craft their own coordinated development program. Aid to a properly crafted program would be provided by the industrial powers and international agencies.

If something like this had been done a decade ago, with standards requiring democracy and other reforms in Yugoslavia, the horrors that engulfed that area in the 1990s could have been averted.

Thus, the Marshall Plan is more than something to be pridefully remembered from a distant past. Its process, providing a prototype deserving application in the Balkans and elsewhere, has been sadly neglected.

David J. Steinberg, Alexandria, Va.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. We can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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