‘It’s time to take the fingers off the triggers’

‘If the PKK lays down its arms, the military operations will stop’, Prime Minister Erdogan declared this week. The fighting between the army and the PKK has been extremely heavy this summer. When I read between the lines, I think Erdogan wants to make it appear as if the PKK is totally worn out by all the violence and is somehow begging for mercy. Erdogan wants to make it look as if he is about to give the PKK the final blow, unless they lay down their arms now. But of course, Erdogan knows the PKK will not lay down its arms now. The PKK didn’t react to his words. The fighting continues. The death toll goes up.

Last Monday, I went to a press conference for foreign journalists by BDP co-chairs Gültan Kisanak and Selahattin Demirtas. They too talked about the end of the violence. And I asked my followers on twitter what they would want to ask Kisanak and Demirtas. Did I get answers to almost all the questions? I did.

Gültan Kisanak and Selahattin Demirtas

‘The PKK laying down its arms is not going to solve the problems’, says Gültan Kisanak, adding: ‘Have you ever seen an armed organisation with a political goal giving up arms before any concession is made on the other side? This doesn’t happen. Of course, there is an urgent need to stop the bloodshed and open the path to peace. But for that, we need political will as well’, implying she doesn’t see any of that political will from the AKP.
She talks about the several proposals the BDP has made to come to a solution, all of which were ignored by the government.

The AKP often puts the BDP in one basket with the PKK, suggesting both are actually the same organisation. Selahattin Demirtas: ‘This is a strategy to be able to ignore the BDP.’ Kisanak: ‘The PKK and the BDP were born out of the same problem, but we are separate organisations. You cannot compare our situation with that of, for example, Sinn Fein in Ireland, which decided on establishing the IRA for an armed struggle.’

Then: ‘What we need is a round-table negotiation, between the BDP and the AKP. Let’s try to agree, let’s try to stop the war together.’ Kisanak calls for a cease fire: ‘I understand the army also doesn’t lay down its weapons. But let’s all take our fingers off the trigger.’

A case against the huggers

The parliamentary year has started again. One of the matters that raise tension in parliament is the threat of Erdogan cooperating with the judiciary to lift the parliamentary immunity of some BDP MP’s, one of whom is Gültan Kisanak. The whole matter started when a few weeks ago several BDP MP’s were halted by the PKK on a road in Hakkari province. The MP’s, among others Gültan Kisanak, talked to the PKK members and hugs were exchanged. PM Erdogan suggested that if the judiciary would prepare a case against the huggers, he would take his responsibility in parliament and cancel their immunity.

One of my followers, who didn’t want to mentioned here, was wondering if the BDP had a road map to follow in case they were indeed thrown out of parliament. ‘No’, said Gültan Kisanak, ‘we don’t have a plan about what to do if that happens. But we won’t remain silent and will consider it a clear hostility and it would be harmful to the process towards a new constitution.’ She did state though that the BDP supports a constitutional change that takes parliamentary immunity away from all members of parliament: ‘There are some corruption cases pending against MP’s of other parties. Lift immunity? Fine, but for all of us.’

A constitution free of buts

Follower @ArjDnn wanted to know why the BDP continues to cooperate within, in his words, ‘a political framework that cripples them’, referring to for example the 10% election threshold and the BDP MP’s in jail. Which was close to the question of @evrana: ‘What does the BDP expect from the new legislative year?’

The question wasn’t directly asked, but the answer became clear during the press conference: only a political process can lead to a solution. Gültan Kisanak talked for some time about the process towards a new constitution, and about the subject of fundamental rights and liberties. ‘What we see now is that the rights and liberties are defined, and after that ‘buts’ and ‘howevers’ follow. In other words: limitations to freedoms are being introduced. We want a constitution free from buts.’

Six articles up till now were agreed upon, 32 remain unresolved. ‘It is basically the three other parties on one side and the BDP on the other’, Kisanak sums it up. ‘If it goes on like this, the new constitution will not be able to meet the expectations of a democratic, pluralistic society. Still, we see the process as a great opportunity to solve issues. Despite our being isolated, we gave our support to the process and we will keep supporting it.’

A second language

An interesting question came from follower @_k4k_. I paraphrase: ‘Do average Kurds really want autonomy or do they just want to live as equals?’

That question too wasn’t asked directly, but the answer became clear anyway: the way Turkey is governed now, centrally from Ankara, doesn’t work out democratically for a big country with big regional differences like Turkey has. Only by some form of decentralization can this problem be solved.

Kisanak gave an example about the use of mother tongue. ‘We don’t want Kurdish to become the second official language of Turkey. However, if you decentralize the political power from Ankara to the regions, the regional government can decide on the use of a second language. In some parts of Turkey, that will be Kurdish based upon the population, elsewhere it can be another language.’ In that way, decentralization can lead to equality.

In the elevator

The very first question that reached me via twitter came from @Hevallo, living in London. He wanted to know what Kurds in Europe can do to contribute to the cause of the Kurds in Turkey. Unfortunately, the atmosphere of the press conference wasn’t suitable for such a question.

However, afterwards I ended up in the elevator with Gültan Kisanak, and I took my chance to get an answer anyway. Kisanak: ‘Kurds in Europe are our most natural ambassadors. What they can do is get in touch with other groups in society and with local politicians to work on mutual understanding. That can contribute to a solution in Turkey.’

Much more very interesting subjects were discussed during the press conference, like Kurds in Syria and different forms of autonomy. That’s too much for this blog post. For now, I keep it as background info for my book research.

Thanks, dear followers, for your questions. It was my pleasure getting the answers!

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