Jonathan Spyer – David L. Phillips – Joost Jongerden

Phillips: AKP “Democracy Package” failed to address several issues

7-12-2013 – Speaking on the second and final day of the 10th Conference on Europe, Turkey and the Kurds, David L. Phillips said AKP so called “democracy package” failed to eliminate race, ethnicity, language or religion as the constitutional basis for citizenship and to amend or repeal Article 8 of the Anti-Terrorism Law, which offers too broad a definition of terrorism, Article 301 of the Penal Code, which makes it a crime to “denigrate Turkishness,” as well as articles 215, 216, 217 and 220 that have been used to limit freedom of expression.

Phillips who is currently Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, also underlined that the package failed to release members of the Union of Kurdish Communities (KCK), thousands of whom were arrested between 2009 and 2011 for pro-Kurdish activities and face charges for “membership of a terrorist organization.” And in the end it failed to offer a plan for disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating the PKK, including amnesty arrangements. 

Academic Joost Jongerden underlined that “moving forward, what seems important for the success of negotiations is an enlargement of the circle of engagement and a commitment to a political solution. On the one hand, the AKP should send negotiators who have a full mandate (rather than secret service agents of uncertain independence), and on the other hand, Abdullah Öcalan should be given the opportunity to create his negotiating team. Both parties need to have equal opportunity and scope to shape the process. A mutually trusted independent mediator probably ought to be sought.”

According to Jongerden “If something along these lines can emerge, genuine negotiations can replace the political reconnaissance missions we have been witnessing thus far, in which the state explores the political positions of the PKK and alone determines the next step forward, without any transparency. And on the basis of a genuine negotiation, a political solution to the Kurdish issue is possible. This, however, demands that the AKP government renounces the public position in which it talks, but not negotiates with the PKK. This also demands that the AKP will be clear about the objective of the talks: the political integration of the PKK in a new, different Turkey, a Turkey in which people have the right to determine their own future”.

Jonathan Spyer, Middle East analyst, remarked how “Two autonomous Kurdish entities have arisen, in a contiguous land area, as a result of the collapse, or retreat, under very different circumstances, of two neighboring Arab nationalist dictatorships – in Iraq and in Syria”.

He underlined how “Within these entities, roughly a third of the total number of Kurds are now resident – around 6.7 million in the KRG in northern Iraq, and somewhere between 2 and 3 million in the PYD controlled autonomous zone of ‘Rojava’ in north east Syria”.

And added that “The Kurds of Iran remain untouched by these events, and continue to live under severe repression, which has recently included mass arrests and a series of executions of activists in the Kordestan region of western Iran”.

Spyer ended by underlining that “the efforts of the Kurds and their friends in the context both of Washington and of Europe ought to be toward seeking to convince their partners that the splitting of these states into their component parts represents a better chance for stability in the longer term than the effort to artificially contain the aspirations of their component peoples within state borders that have often more closely resembled prison walls than accepted boundaries between legitimate countries.  This would mean, in concrete terms, seeking the commitment of western states to the survival both of the KRG and of Rojava.  Preventing Rojava’s isolation and bringing about a KRG underwriting of its future would be a major contribution toward this”.