3 May 2012
Turkey's Kurdish movement leaders are urging the Turkish government to recognise fundamental minority rights and bring about a solution to the decades-old Kurdish problem while drafting the country's new constitution, but the government seems to be ignoring their proposals on how to achieve that goal.
"Changing the constitution is an opportunity to solve these problems once and for all, but unfortunately, we do not see enough discussions on it yet," Selahattin Demirtas, chairman of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), told SES Türkiye.
The government has refused to include Kurdish civil rights at all in the constitutional reform debate, according to Ahmet Turk, an independent Kurdish MP from Mardin and co-president of the Democratic Society Congress.
"The arrest of thousands of Kurdish politicians and activists in recent months is related to this process, as, we observe, the government tries to ignore the Kurds' proposals," Turk told SES Türkiye.
BDP is part of the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission -- the only Kurdish party in parliament – and has offered several major reforms to resolve the Kurds' conflict with the Turkish state.
First and foremost, the Kurds want to remove chapters of Turkey's military-imposed 1982 constitution that equate citizenship with Turkish ethnicity.
Second, all minorities should be granted the right to use their language in all facets of life, including in politics, media and during cultural events.
Third, the Kurds want loosening of what they perceive to be the extremely centralised Turkish state, which has enabled Ankara to stifle Kurdish identity locally.
"We propose to create about 20 regional autonomies across the country and grant them authorities of regional managements, just like in the US," Demirtas said.
Demitras explained that Turkey, whose population is 70 million, is unable to manage all the challenges solely via a centralised government, and some responsibilities should be given to regional governments.
"National security and the economy can be managed by the central government, and civil society, social programmes by the local governments," he said.
Demirtas emphasised the Kurdish leaders are not calling for creating a completely independent Kurdish entity. "The country's territorial integrity should not be a subject of discussion. We are not talking about autonomy for only Kurdish people or Kurdistan."
Meanwhile, Ankara officials said all public suggestions gathered by the constitutional commission are being evaluated by commission members.
However, Yahya Akman, the constitutional commission's AKP member, said BDP's proposals regarding the government's Kurdish policy are not fair.
"Our party broke the state's traditional policy of seeing the Kurdish issue as only a terror problem by recognising the social, economic and cultural dimensions to the problem," he told SES Türkiye.
Akman explained the government has no intention of ignoring any party or peaceful group and is "only fighting to get rid of both terrorism and all the reasons behind the Kurdish problem."
If the BDP leaders are sincere in peacetime, they would publicly condemn the PKK violations of peace which have claimed thousands of lives since the 1980s, Akman said.
Demirtas replied that the Kurds view democracy as the only cure for the violence.
The PKK is not the problem but a result of the problem, and the BDP has no "organic relationship" with this group, he said.
"We believe that the PKK should be communicated with."