Vamık D. Volkan, M.D., DLFAPA, FACPsa.




Kurdish question on the couch!
İzzet Güngör
Hürriyet Daily News (Ankara)
"Some psychological methods and a dialogue process are important
in finding a solution to the problem," says Vamık Volkan.
Prof. Dr. Vamık D. Volkan
After using social, political and military means to try and combat terrorism, the government has now turned to psychological methods in an attempt to resolve the longstanding Kurdish issue.
Interior Minister Beşir Atalay, the coordinator of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government’s recently announced Kurdish move, met world-renowned psychiatry professor and psychoanalyst Vamık Volkan on Monday as part of the party’s efforts to end the Kurdish problem in the country.
Speaking after the meeting, Atalay said the AKP had invited Volkan to ask for his contributions on the issue. Volkan made no comment on the content of the meeting, but in a series of earlier interviews with the Turkish media, he said he had come up with various psychological methods to resolve the Kurdish question, including the establishment of a team with knowledge of the psychology of both sides.
A native of Cyprus, Volkan served as a psychiatry professor at University of Virginia for 45 years and has studied a wide range of topics, including ethnic pride, mobilization, terrorism and violence. His research examines the problem of ethnic conflict, focusing on upper-level leadership and grassroots behavior. His studies also include psychoanalysis of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Dialogue more effective than conferences!
Speaking to daily Milliyet last week, Volkan said the Kurdish problem has not turned into a racial issue in Turkey yet, but that it was likely to pose such a danger. Every opportunity that could likely offer a potential solution should thus be utilized and the government’s move was an important one, he said.
The professor said that while academic conferences could be beneficial for brainstorming, they are not the only solution method. Instead of such individual meetings, he said, creating a space for dialogue where both the PKK and the government could voice their demands and solutions would be more effective.
A team that knows the psychology...
Volkan also said a team should be established that includes Kurdish and Turkish intellectuals who know the psychology of both sides and can devote themselves to solving the Kurdish problem in an emotional sense. This team should be established in cooperation with the government and Kurdish organizations, but its work should not be subject to politics, he added, noting that such a team could produce some remedies that could constitute a basis for possible future steps on the issue. 
In addition, a method to bring an end to the Kurdish population’s sense of being humiliated should be developed, Volkan said. “The use of the Kurdish language was allowed as a result of long discussions, but if Kurdish songs were sung at a wedding in the Southeast, the local authorities could make a personal intervention,” he said.
Prevention to halt humiliation...  
“Such events may be not that big, but preventing such incidents is important in terms of social psychology,” Volkan said. “They shouldn’t feel any humiliation.” 
As another example, the professor offered the use of street names in two languages in regions where both populations exist. “In a village in Finland, for instance, the street names were written in Swedish on top if the Swedish-origin population is larger, or vice versa. Such small, but important psychological solutions could be produced in Turkey too," he said.
Finding the perpetrators of the murders that happened during the armed conflicts in the Southeast region is also important, Volkan said.
Öcalan should be kept outside!
The psychoanalyst said Öcalan should not be included in the peace process because he symbolizes terror for many people as a figure who caused the death of many people. “Pardoning such a symbol can inflame big identity conflicts and harm the people’s perception of justice,” Volkan said, adding that the pardon issue concerns both sides and thus requires the cooperation of the government and Kurdish groups.
In an interview with Tempo magazine last year, Volkan said Öcalan looked for a strong father figure throughout his life. Interpreting the first photo taken of Öcalan after he was caught, Volkan said: “He found his father at last! He now feels relaxed. He remained silent like a good boy before his father, or the government.”
"Though Öcalan launched his terror attacks for ideological reasons, in his subconscious, he always fought with the strong, father-figure-like government," Volkan said.
Copyright © Vamık D. Volkan and Özler Aykan 2007.
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Last modified on: Apr 20, 2016