TURKEY PEACE PROCESS : Activists call for democratic reforms amidst settlement process

7 May 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – One hundred eleven activists, politicians, journalists and artists have called for a democratic constitutional compromise amidst the ongoing settlement process between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), stressing that democracy is the only way to secure a lasting peace in Turkey.

In a statement released in the Radikal daily yesterday, the civil society representatives said the peace process represented a vital opportunity for the country but stressed that it must be handled as a political, rather than a military, issue and that a democratic compromise on Turkey’s new constitution would play an important role in these efforts.

The statement’s signatories represented a broad array of Turkish left-liberal politics. Among them were Hosrof Dink, brother of murdered Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, journalists such as Ece Temelkuran, Pınar Öğünç and Ahmet Şık, a number of deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and academics such as Koray Çalışkan and Büşra Ersanlı.

The PKK has already called a cease-fire and is set to begin withdrawing from Turkey on Wednesday as part of the process of ending Turkey’s decades-long conflict with the militant group and finding a peaceful resolution to the grievances of the country’s Kurdish population. At the same time, ongoing efforts to create a civilian constitution to replace the present one, drafted under military rule in 1982, have grinded nearly to a halt as a result of the inability of the parliamentary commission tasked with drafting the new constitution to reach a compromise on a number of issues. The statement said everyone who is on the side of peace and democracy ought to work towards a constitutional compromise based on democratic principles. It also noted with concern the state’s handling of the recent attempt by many trade unions and political parties to celebrate May 1 in İstanbul’s Taksim Square despite a ban due to an ongoing controversial construction project in the area. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators in what the statement described as “disproportionate and illegal state violence.” The statement argued, “If Turkish politics are to be dominated by peaceful discussion rather than violence, the government and security forces should comport themselves accordingly.”