We would like to express our great concern over the situation in Turkey. Over the past week, at least 15 people lost their lives in riots opposing demonstrators and Turkish security forces in the South-East and in terrorist attacks in Istanbul.
We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force by police forces in Diyarbakir and Kiziltepe. The use of automatic pistols to disperse demonstrators is clearly in breach with international law. We therefore call upon the Turkish government to investigate the incidents and on the judiciary to prosecute the law enforcement officials responsible.
At the same time, we vehemently denounce the provocations by the PKK, whose leaders deliberately stir up violent eruptions and riots. After three municipality busses in Istanbul were burnt without any casualties, the terror hit two young sisters who were killed on Sunday evening when a bus was attacked. The majority of the Kurds who wish to build a decent life in the towns or to return to their villages, should not be hostage to cynical leaders within the ‘military’ wing of the PKK looking to escalate the conflict.
Time is overripe for a solution of the problems in South-East Turkey, the most pressing of which is undoubtedly the socio-economic underdevelopment of the region. The Turkish government should understand that no lasting settlement with the Kurds can be reached without a comprehensive and far reaching program of aid and development in order to radically reduce unemployment, which currently affects more than half of the Kurdish working force.
A second area in which real advancement is overdue is cultural rights. It is a fact that the present government has brought about a breakthrough, allowing broadcasts in languages other than Turkish and the teaching of these including Kurdish. But these steps are no more than a very timid beginning: television stations are only allowed to broadcast in Kurdish for 45 minutes a day and a total of four hours a week, and with Turkish subtitles. The process of granting cultural rights to the Kurds must speed up significantly.
But any effort to develop the region economically and to grant cultural rights is lost if the PKK does not change its attitude. The leadership of the PKK apparently drew the wrong lessons from the unilateral ceasefire proclaimed recently by the Spanish terrorist organisation ETA: It is not by intensifying the fight that one becomes a respectable partner for talks on a solution, but by renouncing to all forms of violence.
In light of the recent events, we have the feeling that the European and the world press and statements by our colleagues in the European Parliament are not telling the whole story: they give the impression of a black and white situation, in which basically no Turk wants to grant more rights to the Kurds and every Kurd is an oppressed victim. That is why we would like to draw your attention to the debate going on within Turkish society, and cite some views put forward by liberal Turkish and Kurdish intellectuals. The Turkish economist Serif Sayin points (Radikal April 5) to the lack of government policy towards the Kurdish problem. He shares some observations that need to be recognized to develop a policy line which will pave the way for the solution: 1. The Turkish state did not recognize the Kurdish identity and mistreated the ones who insisted on this identity. According to him, this is the root of the problem;2. Policies towards assimilating Kurds did not work;3. There is a sincere problem of distrust between the Turkish state and its citizens insisting on their Kurdish identity;4. Since most Turks after decades of violence cannot accept the PKK as a negotiating partner, the legitimate way to solution cannot be with the PKK. So, according to Sayin, a thorough discussion on the issue is needed within Turkey, among Turks and Kurds to finally make it a matter of wide public debate. Although the opinions of the United States and the European Union are certainly very important, in the first place this issue is their very problem and they have to solve it themselves.
Nevertheless and as many Kurds today realise, the rapprochement between Turkey and the EU provides a unique chance for them, the chance to at last obtain adequate responses to their needs and claims. Therefore, the present circumstances are favourable for a satisfactory solution. Turkey has started negotiations with the European Union, and Europe has never paid more attention to the situation of human and cultural rights in Turkey.
As the Kurd Dagistan Toprak, former Deputy Mayor of Diyarbakir put it: "If we’re going to have real peace here, the PKK needs to adjust itself to the new world situation. The Turkish state is becoming more democratic. The PKK needs to do the same. It should give up the idea of armed struggle, and open respectful dialogue with Kurds who think differently. It also needs to renovate its leadership. This organization was formed with a Cold War mentality. It needs to evolve."
At the same time, we would like to underline that the Turkish government should acknowledge that in order to reach enduring peace in the South-Eastern provinces, a first imperative is the assurance of the rule of law. A recent study into sources and settlements of ethnic conflicts in the world underlined the absolute necessity of the state to be a trustworthy actor as a prerequisite to any confidence-building between the parties: there is no substitute for good governance, accountable democracy, and normal politics when it comes to ending internal conflict.
On both sides we hear encouraging words. Co-chairman Ahmet Turk of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) called on the Kurds to stay away from violence: "Violence causes only more violence." At the same time, Prime Minister Erdogan and Minister of Foreign Affairs Gül both stated that the only solution for terrorism is more democracy.
We call on all parties involved to stop the violence and the provocations. Those who send their children to march in demonstrations that are bound to end up in riots and those who shoot on them are the two fatal sides of the same medal. The hawks and extremists have monopolised this conflict far too long already. Now it is time to take over for those who want a peaceful and common solution. It is these forces we want to prevail and succeed.
Joost Lagendijk (Greens/EFA), Chairman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee
Cem Özdemir (Green/EFA), Member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee