WISE MEN : Report highlights urgent need for deeper democratization in addressing Kurdish question

27 June 2013 /TODAYSZAMAN.COM, İSTANBUL – A report prepared by the Southeastern Group of the Wise People Commission has highlighted the urgent need for deeper democratization in order to solve the decades-old Kurdish dispute and terrorism problem through introducing constitutional, legal and administrative changes to the political system to address the demands of Turkey’s Kurds.

The 39-page report appeared on media after the Wise People Commission, tasked with working on the details of the settlement process aimed at ending the decades-old conflict with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in İstanbul on Wednesday in a meeting finalizing its work. After analyzing the underlying dynamics and causes of the decades-old Kurdish dispute, the report presents a proposal including a long list of demands to bring a permanent and viable solution to the simmering conflict.

Led by Yılmaz Ensaroğlu, the southeastern group — comprising several academics, intellectuals and artists — worked for more than two months to finalize its report after meeting with hundreds of representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGO), rights groups and civil society groups in the southeastern region.

According to the report, a majority of the people in the region are demanding constitutional guarantees for Kurds’ cultural and political rights. The most significant rights of the Kurdish population, such as education in one’s mother tongue, recognition of identity, political decentralization, equality and others must be guaranteed constitutionally.

The demands of the region’s people fall into a number of major categories such as constitutional demands, changes on the administrative level, demands which require legal regulations and demands based on rights stemming from international treaties.

According to the report, people emphasize the need for the introduction of a new definition of citizenship, one much more inclusive in comparison to existing one in the current Constitution, in which citizenship is defined in reference to Turkish ethnicity.

The removal of compulsory military service, the removal of obstacles in freedom of thought and religion, a decentralized political system in which governors of provinces are elected by locals and not appointed by the government in Ankara, legally recognizing Kurds in the constitution, recognition of the right to education in one’s mother tongue on constitutional grounds and introducing constitutional guarantees to all minority groups in the country constitute the major demands on the constitutional level. The report also insists on the need for adopting programs for social rehabilitation of militants once they return home after the disarmament of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is completed as part of the settlement process.

The removal of village guards also bears critical importance for the settlement process, the report said in reflecting the thoughts of locals regarding a security mechanism that has long endured due to the armed conflict ongoing until this year. The report also suggests that the establishment of truth commissions is required to investigate the crimes committed by state officials during the three decades of the armed conflict in a move to heal the wounds in the region and to restore people’s sense of justice.