Istanbul – Bia News Agency

18 August 2009, Tuesday

The Turkey Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) has suggested "human rights, social justice and democracy for everyone, without discrimination" as the approach that will solve the Kurdish question.

At a meeting on 15 August, the TİHV as well as around 20 other NGOs and rights organisations, the foundation’s president Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı spoke and introduced the text.

The document that has been handed to Minister of the Interior Beşir Atalay, who is coordinating the government’s Kurdish initiative and is currently consulting with political parties and NGOs, calls for an acknowledgement of the pain which a quarter of a century of fighting and violence has created in society.

"Human rights are beyond individual approval"

The TİHV praised the government’s attempts to speak to different sections of society. However, because it believes that the solution to the issue must be based on human rights and freedoms in the widest possible sense, the search for approval from everyone may prove to be problematic:

"Whatever a citizen’s ethnic origin, human rights are based on principles and norms that allow them all tol ive with human dignity. It is holistic and is thus not dependent on anyone’s approval. Furthermore, the protection of basic rights and freedoms, as well as their violation, is an issue for the government."

The complete text can be read on the foundation’s website (in Turkish).

"Greatest obstacle to democracy"

The document calls the Kurdish question "the greatest obstruction to the establishment and development of human rights and democracy in Turkey" and blames the denial of a Kurdish identity for the problem.

Until now, the issue has been reduced to one of "terrorism and public order", while the economic, social, cultural, political and legal dimensions have been ignored.

The recent developments are described as encouraging, particularly for the citizens of Kurdish origin who have suffered material and psychological damages.

However, so the foundation, other opportunities for peace have not been taken in the past, and it warns the government of the danger of creating disappointment yet again.

Because the Kurdish question is a multidimensional issue, it has to be approached from different angles.

A solution can only be achieve with the widest possible application of human rights and freedoms.

In addition, the many victims of the conflict need to be compensated by the state at all levels. In this context, the foundation criticises the term "initiative" used by the government, as it implies a particular favour done rather than a duty carried out.

If you are sincere…

The TİHV thus calls on the government to apply democratic principles to end the oppression of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), the Confederation of Trade Unions of Public Employees (KESK) and human rights activists.

Furthermore, it called for the release of the many Kurdish children detained or imprisoned for throwing stones or taking part in demonstrations. This should happen before schools re-open after the summer holidays and would end the violation of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The government must also end its stubborn continuation of incarceration of the many critically ill detainees and prisoners, where scientific and ethical values would necessitate a release.

Unfortunate recent signals

Meanwhile the foundation criticised several recent incidents as "unfortunate", beginning with the refusal of the  Ministry of the Interior to grant Armenian musician Aram Tigran’s last wish of a funeral in Diyarbakır, the transfer of unemployment funds to the Southeast Anatolian Project (GAP) and the continuous emphasis of Turkish and Kurdish brotherhood based on sharing the same religion, saying that all of these incidents display a lack of respect for true democracy.

The document then lists priority steps to be taken so that all citizens in Turkey may enjoy the same human rights, social justice and democracy:

* Legal, administrative and practical obstructions of the freedom of the expression must be lifted in order to ensure participation of all social sections in the process

* In this context, the development of rights and freedoms which was interrupted in 2005 needs to be continued.

* 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.

* People must be allowed to develop, teach, learn and research all the languages and cultures which have coexisted in the country for thousands of years. Basic education must also be offered in Kurdish. Multi-lingual official services must be implemented.

* Old placenames must be restored and people must be allowed to choose names for their children freely.

* The principle of greatest benefits for the child of the Convention on the Child must be applied, particularly in the context of the Kurdish children in prison.

* The village guard system, which has led to serious rights violations, needs to be abolished.

* Steps need to be taken to deal with the economic, social and psychological effects of the forced migration. Obstructions to returns to villages need to be lifted.

* Land mines need to be cleared and the land gained through clearance should be shared among people of the region, with organic agriculture being encouraged. The ecological damages of the conflict need to be dealt with.

* The socio-economic inequalities between regions in Turkey need to be addressed with positive discrimination and development plans.

* Bottom-up management needs to be encouraged.

* The election threshold of 10 percent needs to be abolished, and the Law on Political Parties must be amended to allow for the use of languages other than Turkish in politics.

* An effective investigation into the many extrajudicial killings, political assasinations and unsolved murders, particularly in the areas of emergency law needs to be launched. Those responsible need to be put on trial, and victims need to receive apologies. There must be a process of facing up to the past.

* In order for peace to be possible, the announced ceasefire (by the PKK) needs to be become permanent and military operations in the region must end. There must be no vying for political opportunities in this period.

* A political amnesty which would allow for social, public and political participation needs to be discussed and concrete steps be taken.

* In order to deal with the trauma which a quarter century of conflict has created in society, multi-disciplinary programmes need to be developed.

* A civilian structure needs to be created, particularly in the area (of the east and southeast) in order to develop and monitor the process.

* If the government is sincere in its wish to solve the Kurdish issue realistically, in a fair, 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.

The foundation finally expressed its willingness to contribute to a fair, democratic and peaceful solution. (TK/AG)