Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) on Kurdish Issue in the Light of Recent Developments
Minister of Interior Affairs Ms. Beşir Atalay invited 21 civil society organisations to a meeting in relation with the “Democracy Initiative/Kurdish Initiative” on 15 August 2009, Saturday. This statement was presented in the meeting by Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFTHuman Rights Foundation of Turkey ).
15 August 2009
Short Summary of the Opinions of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) on Kurdish Issue in the Light of Recent Developments
Our main aim, since the foundation of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) in 1990, is to settle and improve a participatory, permissive democracy based on human rights which respects religious, cultural and language diversities in our country.
“Kurdish issue” is the main obstacle in front of the settlement and improvement of democracy and human rights in Turkey. Denial of the Kurdish identity constitutes the basis of the issue.
Unfortunately this issue was seen as an issue of “terror and security” until today and its economic, social, political, cultural and judicial dimensions of the issue were neglected. The link between this issue and the democratization of Turkey was tried to be torn off. This attitudes and policies caused the acceleration of violence in our political and social life and eventually led our society to polarization and fracture.
Recently we have been experiencing important advancements in Kurdish issue. These advancements create new hopes in all our citizens especially the Kurdish originated ones who carried the entire physical and mental burden created by the unsolved issue. It is clear that there is a need for the sincere and courageous efforts from all sides for the just, democratic and peaceful solution of the issue.
But the opportunities in our recent history could not be evaluated. One can feel the mistrust in our citizens that created by this situation. We even do not want to envision the concerning advancements that we would be experienced with the disillusionment of these new hopes.
As it is mentioned above there are several dimensions of Kurdish issue (i.e. political, cultural, social). Due to this the discussion on the issue should be multi-dimensional. But being a human rights organisation we approach the issue from the rights and freedoms perspective. Furthermore the rights and freedoms constitute the essence and basis of this problem. By implication it is clear that the steps that neglect the essence of the issue will not contribute the solution.
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey’s (HRFT) Perspective on the Given Process
1. Fundemental perspective:
1.a. Interrogating and taking proposals from all sides of the society by the political power in the framework of the efforts to find a solution to the issue is very important and valuable. To reach a social consensus underlies this though.
But if what is at stake is to safeguarding the use of freedoms and rights in its broadest sense it is very dangerous to think that it is necessary to get a consensus on freedoms and rights. Because rights constitute the principles and norms to live in dignity for every citizens regardless of their ethnic origins. Rights are integrated and unalienable and thus their usage and safeguarding them are not under someone’s authority. Moreover both usage and protection of basic human rights and freedoms are an issue of power. Consequently if the political power wants a real resolution to the Kurdish issue it should make concerted effort to institute human rights, social justice and democracy for all the people in Turkey without discrimination. Besides these kinds of efforts should be seen as normal for a government which declares itself as pro-human rights and pro-democracy and it is not meaningful to give special importance to these efforts by calling them “initiative”.
1.b. Programmes to cope with the trauma in the whole society that was created by the clash environment that has been going on in the last quarter of century and the reparation of every kind of losses of the victims that were created by this trauma are the duties of a state governed by the rule of law. For this reason it is not proper to link these kinds of efforts with the word “initiative”.
1.c. Absolutely the resolution of the issue is very easy with a humanitarian perspective, but on the other hand there is a need for a peace programme which has short-middle-long termed aims due to the complex content of the issue that was created with its historical, political, cultural and international reasons.
Nevertheless putting an end to the practices of the political power that are conflicting with the insight of democracy that respects human rights and implementing changes that would encourage the trust in society immediately present great importance.
• The extensive coercion that was practiced on the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the Confederation of Public Employees Trade Unions (KESKConfederation of Trade Union in the Public Sector ) and human rights organisations should be ended (there is an ongoing case against HRFT’s Diyarbakır Representative Sezgin Tanrıkulu in connection with the “2007 Calendar of the Diyarbakır Bar Association” in Turkish and Kurdish which was published when he was the former chairperson of the Bar).
• Kurdish juveniles who were arrested with arbitrary reasons such as throwing stones etc. should be released before the new semester in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
• Prisoners with chronic illnesses should be released immediately in accordance with the scientific reports and ethical values. • 1.d. In this process as these kinds of advancements were waited, practices of the government such as,
• Ministry of Interior Affairs did not give permission for the burial of singer Aram Tigran in Diyarbakır Province.
• Ministry of State Ms. Cevdet Yılmaz argued that “The three billion Turkish Liras which will be transferred from Unemployment Fund to South-east Anatolia Project (GAP) can be counted as the economic dimension of the initiative” (economic measurements are definitely necessary for the solution of the issue but today with the highest unemployment rate of the history of the Republic of Turkey, the transference of the Unemployment Fund to the GAP would probably wound the consciences).
• Doubtless freedom of religion and belief are one of the basic freedoms and rights. But the government takes every step with religious references (Kurdish people are subject to discrimination due to their ethnic identities not their religious ones. Moreover underlining the “fraternity” of the Kurdish and Turkish people on the grounds that they both have “the same religion” is the negligence of non-Muslim citizens and causes them to worry),
2. Prioritised steps to institute human rights, social justice and democracy for Kurdish people foremost and all the people in Turkey:
• The precondition of the participation of all social sides to the solution process and of the widespread discussion of the issue is making regulations immediately that would clear all the judicial, administrative and de facto obstacles that restrict the freedom of thought and speech.
• The regulations which were left over in 2005 that aimed to broaden the freedoms and rights should be carried on.
• Efforts should be made to replace the Constitution of the 1982 coup d’etat which was prepared with the mentalities of militarist and security regime with a new constitution free from discriminative conceptualizations that based on religion and culture, that safeguards all the citizens’ equality and freedom so to permit the creation of a common and voluntarily political identity.
• The constitution of 1982, created with the attitude of a militarist regime, needs to be replaced with a constitution that offers equality to all citizens. The new constitution needs to be created with the participation of all sections of society.
• Efficient measurements should be taken to research and improve the cultures and languages that have been effective in the making of the common culture in this country and to remove judicial and de facto obstacles that prevent the teaching of them. Kurdish should be included in the fundamental education. Efforts should be spent for the official civil services in multi-languages (In this context it is noteworthy to mention the two text related with the issue: Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1995) European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (1992). Although Turkey has been a member of Council of Europe did not sign the convention which became valid in 1998).
• The names of the residential areas which were changed should be should be renamed with their original ones. Citizens should not be obstructed to give their offspring the names they wish.
• The judicial system should be harmonised with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child considering the Kurdish juveniles who were arrested with arbitrary reasons such as throwing stones etc. and “Best Interest of the Child” should be guarantied.
• The temporary village guard system that caused serious human rights breaches should be abolished.
• Concrete and realist measurements should be taken to compensate the economic, social and psychological destructive effects of forced displacement. The administrative and de facto obstacles should be removed before the return to home practise.
• Land mines should be cleaned immediately. Land which will be cleaned from mines should be distributed to the people living in the region and organic agriculture should be encouraged. A concrete plan should be put into practice.
• Development plans and projects to remove the inter-regional socio-economical inequalities and extensive poverty should be implemented.
• Municipal administrations should be strengthened and the obstacles on representation and participation should be removed.
• The laws on political parties and election of deputies should be amended; election threshold of 10 percent should be removed and the article that bans the use of different languages except Turkish in elections should be annulled.
• Efficient investigations that will shed light on the all murder by unknown assailants, extrajudicial killings, political assassinations… that took place especially in the state of emergency period. Assailants should be tried and the State should be apologised to victims. A process of “facing with the past and revealing the realities” should be started in various ways.
• Definitely obtaining the ceasefire and active non-clash situation is vital. Because of this, declared non-clash situation should become permanent and operations should be quitted. Because the clashes cause the violations of right to life foremost. Moreover the violence settings which have been created by the clashes destruct the political area and obstruct the vital elements of the politics, communication and dialog. It also renders the society open to provocations. Due to these reasons the necessary steps that should be taken including indirect meetings should be free from political concerns.
• A political amnesty or more clearly “Law on Equal and Free Participation to Political and Social Life” which will enable the participation to social, public and political life should be open to discussion and serious steps should be taken for the implementation of it.
• Holistic and multi-disciplinary programmes to cope with the trauma in the whole society that was created by the clash environment that has been going on in the last quarter of century should be developed.
• A civil institution to improve, pursuit and monitor the process should be constituted. The participation from the region should be taken into consideration.
• If the government is sincere in its wish to solve the “Kurdish issue” realistically, in a just, democratic and peaceful manner, then it must be courageous in its dialogue with all those who are affected by it. It must avoid polarisation and the destruction of a base for debate.
We would like to mention once again that, we as HRFT, are ready to contribute to a fair, democratic and peaceful solution of the Kurdish Issue in accordance with our accumulation.
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT)