TurkeySpecial Political and Decolonization Committee:National Secession and Separatist MovementsA.
A statement of the problem in which you identify the most important issues related to secession, be they legal principles, case studies listed here, or other cases of separatism around the world. It should be mostly objective, but it should introduce the unique perspective of Turkey as well — what does Turkey value in this debate, and what principles are you as its representative going to be carrying with you into committee and fighting for throughout the conference?In your country’s opinion, what are the main elements of the problem? What are the roots of those elements?National secession and separatist movements inherently affect the international community, given the far-reaching consequences of the creation of a new state. Of high importance are the legal principles surrounding secession, namely territorial integrity and self-determination.
BothTurkey values the principle of territorial integrity;B.The Republic of Turkey was built from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire following the end of World War I. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey and its first president, enacted a set of policies and reforms in line with his ideology that became known as Kemalism. The new national identity formed in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire consisted of two basic parts: Turkish language and belongingness to the state. To Atatürk, “national unity, national awareness and national culture” were three major building blocks in the Turkish Nation; nationalism, according to him, indicated that the Turkish state was a unified, undivided entity composed of its territory and people.
This type of nationalism highlights the autonomy, sovereignty, and homogeneity of the Turkish nation within the borders, while condemning any separation and/or departures from the collective identity. Territorial integrity is so deeply intertwined with the Turkish state and national identity, that secession, accordingly, amounts to utmost treachery in Turkish eyes. Today, Turkey is involved in an ongoing conflict with the terrorist organisation Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, and its affiliated parties. Since 1984, the PKK has engaged in an armed conflict against Turkey for the right to secede and to create an independent Kurdistan, as well as to have autonomy and greater cultural and political rights within Turkey itself. The conflict has resulted in nearly forty thousand deaths, most of whom were Kurdish civilians. An estimated thirty million Kurds live in the Middle East today, spread out mostly amongst Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria; the Kurds comprise approximately one-fifth of Turkey’s population.
In September 2017, Iraqi Kurds, who inhabit the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) in northern Iraq, voted in a referendum overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Iraq. Turkey views this referendum as a mistake, not only threatening the territorial integrity of Iraq, but also posing a danger to that of Turkey and Iran’s. The referendum has set a risky precedent that could encourage Kurdish separatists in neighbouring countries, creating further instability in the Middle East. This referendum could also possibly encourage the millions of Kurds who live in Turkey to destroy the national fabric that entwines fellow Turks. Kurdish nationalism not only poses a security threat to Turkey, but challenges every principle that Turkey has been founded upon. It violates the principles of nationalism and territorial integrity, with the priority always being conservation of Turkish state borders/territory.
The interactions that Turkey has had (and continues to have) with secession and separatism shapes the way that Turkey views issues regarding these movements today.C.Turkey highly values and respects the principle of territorial integrity; accordingly, it is imperative that the international community recognises its boundaries in potentially dictating a legal precedent that may jeopardize a country’s integrity and sovereignty. There are a multitude of directions committee may go in, and Turkey has anticipated certain frameworks and solutions that are irreconcilable with the need to uphold territorial integrity and state unity. Thus, no Turkish government will voluntarily allow any group to secede and consequently divide Turkish territory.
While the status of legal secession in international law is still uncertain, Turkey recommends that respect for the current legal status quo and the territorial integrity of a state surpass all other possible solutions. A radical change to the existing manner in which secession is dealt with could threaten the stability of Turkey itself, and by extension, the greater Middle East, during already tumultuous times. To preserve national identity, territorial integrity must also be protected; changes made to the status quo would lead to the disintegration of the state and of the collective identity of said state. Every challenge to territorial integrity requires military response, and Turkey would regret to see violence be brought upon a country’s own valued citizens. Turkey cannot allow the acquiescence of the international community in regards to this topic; if we let our guard down, we let each and every nation become vulnerable to the downfall of its sovereignty. Turkey will continue to support the territorial integrity, constitution, and political unity of a nation above all else.