Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Conference on Kurds in Diyarbakir

Conference on Kurds in Diyarbakir
"Kurds in Turkey: Main Requirements for a Peace Process" was the title of the conference, which was held on 29 and 30 September in Diyarbakir.
Bıa news centre
Last weekend, a conference on the Kurdish question in Diyarbakir was co-organised by the Diyarbakir Bar Association and the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Entitled "Kurds in Turkey: Main Requirements for a Peace Process", the aim was to have an "in-depth discussion".
Some of the speakers at the conference were Sezgin Tanrikulu (president of Diyarbakir Bar Association), Ulrike Dufner (Heinrich Böll Foundation), Prof. Dr. Mithat Sancar (Ankara University), Aysel Tugluk (DTP MP for Diyarbakir), Orhan Miroglu (DTP) Yurdusev Özsekmenler (mayor of Baglar), Dr. Dilek Kurban (TESEV), Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran, Nebahat Akkoc (Ka-Mer), and Dr. Michael Gunter (Tennessee University).
Tanrikulu: "Solution outside of conflict"
In his opening speech, Sezgin Tanrikulu emphasised the importance of having a conference on solving the Kurdish question in the actual region. He described the conference as a "thinking platform which would show that there was a solution outside of conflict."
According to Tanrikulu, there are legal, social and political issues which feed the conflict. He pointed out that Kurds still had problems expressing, organising and representing themselves. There were also still problems with language rights.
Dufner: "The right time"
Ulrike Dufner of the Heinrich Böll Foundation started her speech in Kurdish, which was applauded by the more than 300 strong audience. She said that the presence of DTP MPs in parliament, the discussion of the definition of citizenship in the work on a new constitution, as well as a general relaxation of taboo topics, showed that this was the right time to talk about a solution to the Kurdish question. She said that women in particular were necessary in any peace process.
Giving examples from Germany, Dufner said that the second and third generation Turks demanded education in their mother tongue. She also referred to election quotas according to ethnic origin, which, although potentially problematic, could also guarantee representation.
Sancar: Different definition of citizenship
Prof. Dr. Mithat Sancar spoke during the session entitled "The Process of Ending Conflict". Referring to the current work on a new constitution, Sancar called for a constitution that would "at least not contain any clause which would hinder a solution."
He said that this would mean a definition of citizenship which was not associated with ethnicity [as the term "Turk" is at present]. It would also mean that there would have to be clauses which acknowledged and protected plurality: "The constitution must be open towards the future and the Kurdish question."
Tugluk: Accept all cultures democratically
Aysel Tugluk, MP for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) in Diyarbakir, spoke at the session entitled "The Process of Passing from Authoritarian and Militarist Structures to a Participant Democracy". She also referred to the debate on the constitution, calling for the constitution to accept all cultures democratically and allow their expression. She further warned, "A constitution which is not supported by the Kurds will not be a text of compromise."
Apparently imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan had called for such an expression of acceptance of different cultures to be included in the constitution around two weeks ago. Speaking with his lawyers, he had said: "This sentence would even be enough. It would open the way for many things. Let them put this sentence in the constitution, and the PKK would put down their arms within two months."
Orhan Miroglu, also of the DTP, called for people to listen to Öcalan's message.
Özsökmenoglu: Table of peace
Yurdusev Özsökmenler, mayor of the Baglar district in Diyarbakir city, spoke during the session entitled "Looking at Peace through the Window of Gender". She saw the work on a new constitution as an opportunity for women to "disclaim violence" and "sit down at a table of peace."
Criticism of discourse on "Founders of Republic"
Dr. Dilek Kurban of the Turkish Foundation for Economic and Social Studies (TESEV) criticised Kurdish attempts at legitimisation by claiming that, together with the Turks, they were the founders of the Republic. According to Kurban, this approach encouraged the authoritarian state attitude towards non-Muslims.
In a later session, Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran also criticised the discourse of "founding elements", saying that this led to a kind of "Kurdish Kemalism". Nebahat Akkoc of the Diyarbakir Women's Centre Foundation (Ka-Mer) also acknowledged that this discourse rejected minorities and led to power struggles.
Gunter: Recognition will strenghten state
Dr. Michael Gunter of Tennessee University likened the rejection of a Kurdish identity to the experiences of blacks in the USA. He pointed out that the state had been strenghtened by legal acknowledgement and protection of a black identity and that this could serve as a model for Turkey. (TK/NZ/AG)


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