A SPEEDY RETREAT : PKK will be out by the end of June, says BDP

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News – 27.5.2013 – The withdrawal of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants will be completed by the end of June, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has said.

“If we take this schedule into consideration, in order to realize the democratic reforms Parliament may have to work instead of taking a long leave,” Demirtaş told reporters May 25, on the sidelines of a BDP conference. “As we are debating the resolution of such a critical problem, the Parliament might work on legal reforms, or the [drafting of a new] Constitution,” he added. The two-day Democracy and Peace Conference started in Ankara on May 25, with a wide range of participants, including representatives of civil society organizations and labor unions, alongside parliamentary deputies, writers, journalists and individual attendees. All were gathered with the aim of delivering their opinions for a solution to the three-decade-long conflict between the PKK and the Turkish armed forces.

The conference is being held in an effort to accelerate the peace process and to attain a consensus regarding the path to be followed in establishing a permanent peace, upon the request of the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Four conferences

As a part of the peace process, Öcalan previously announced in a letter read out during the Newroz celebrations on March 21 that four conferences would be held with the aim of guiding the process.

The weekend’s conference kicked off with a speech from Sırrı Süreyya Önder, the BDP’s Istanbul deputy. Önder defined the raison d’être of the conference being “to watch, ease, observe and supervise this historically grand process.”

Surprisingly, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, the deputy leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), a party known for its skeptical stance on the peace process, was among the attendees. When asked whether he was participating individually or as a representative of the CHP, Tanrıkulu responded, “I am the deputy leader of the CHP.”

Ahmet Türk, the co-chair of the Kurdish umbrella organization, the Democratic Society Congress, was also present, remarking on the status of the current peace talks. Another deputy from the BDP, Sebahat Tuncel, urged the government to take the “necessary steps” for a Constitution that would guarantee permanent peace. “The rights of language, culture and identity are not issues to be negotiated,” she said.

Artists such as Murathan Mungan, a writer outspoken on human rights issues and saz virtuouso Arif Sağ also attended the conference. Mungan said peace should be widened in all layers of society. Constitutional change, the struggle for rights and freedoms, and the freeing of Öcalan, were the foremost demands expressed throughout the conference. Three further conferences will now follow, to be held in Diyarbakır, Brussels and Arbil. At the end of the four conferences, a declaration on how to attain permanent peace is expected to be delivered.