News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
According to a report in today’s Özgür Gündem, the Democratic Reform Package announced by Turkish PM Erdoğan on Monday is coming under wide criticism. Turkey’s democratic forces have stated that the package aims to ‘govern’ democratic forces, instead of removing policies of assimilation and denial against the people of Turkey and their beliefs. They have called for demonstrations in public squares, further organization and struggle.
Strong Reaction From the Alevis.
Alevi organizations made separate announcements, stating that the government does not seek to give Alevis their rights and freedoms, but assimilate them.
The Chairman of the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Foundation (PSAKD) Kemal Bülbül remarked, “This package gave us denial, assimilation and rejection. So we are going to react by using our legitimate democratic rights, go to the squares and demonstrate against this denial, assimilation and rejection. This is a duty bestowed not only to us; all those who are excluded, rejected in Turkey should agree on the same principles. Otherwise the AKP’s packages will follow one another like matroshka dolls. Instead of waiting for a package, we should sack the AKP!”
The President of the Hubyar Sultan Alevi Cultural Foundation Ali Kenanoğlu said reacted to the government’s decision to re-name the Nevşehir University after the Hadji Bektash Veli, Sufi mystic and an important figure in Alevism: “There is nothing in the package for the Alevis, or for Alevism. (…) What does it matter if you give Hacı Bektaş Veli’s name to a university when you can visit his dergah (lodge) with tickets and cannot pray inside?”
Ali Balkız, the co-founder of the Alevi-Bektashi Federation: “I felt sorry for İzzettin Doğan when the package was announced. We have seen that Doğan’s policies went bankrupt.”
(Prof. Doğan, president of the Cem Foundation, is sponsoring the joint mosque-cemevi project to be built in the Alevi-populated Tuzluçayır neighbourhood in Turkey’s capital, Ankara. The project has since received much criticism from the local Alevi community, leading to clashes with the police.)
The Wise Men Council: The Package Has Not Met The Demands In Our Reports.
Two members of the Wise Men Council, Celalettin Can and Zübeyde Teker, stated that the report the Council presented to PM Erdoğan was largely disregarded in the reform package. “From the first day onwards, we said that we would use the language of the oppressed. We will prepare a report according to the people’s inclinations. We have been told that a single report will be prepared out of the seven regional reports, and this one report will be discussed with the public. But no single report relying on our reports have been prepared, and the Democracy Package did not meet the expectations of a lot of people,” Can stated, “There is no mention of the Anti-Terror Law or the Penal Code. There are inequalities everywhere. The AKP has presented such options for the election barrier that, people would ask the current 10 % threshold to stay.”
Some of the suggestions in the Wise Men Council’s Report are:
– Efforts should be made to raise awareness about the traumas the conflict has caused in the Southeastern region, and to correct the misperceptions a lack of awareness has caused.
– Place names should be restored to their originals.
– Hydroelectric power plant (HES) projects in the region should be revised.
– The solution process should be carried out with legal protection and transparency.
– A Commission for Investigating Truths should be found, and state archives should be opened.
– A general amnesty should be issued.
– The Anti-Terror Law should be abolished.
– A judicial reform should be carried out, and the judiciary should be cleansed from ideological elements.
– A Kurdish Language Society, and a Kurdish Historical Society should be found alongside the Turkish Language Society (TDK) and the Turkish Historical Society (TTK).
– Lands and mountains should be cleansed from mines, weaponry and bombs.
– Refugees, especially those in the Mahmur Camp, should be incentivized to return home.
– The annexed lands of the Yazidis should be returned back to them, and their return should be facilitated.
– The Assyrians should be allowed education in their own tongue, and educate their own clergy. The Syriac Orthodox churches that were converted to mosques should be converted back.
(The Wise Men Council is a group of artists, public figures and politicians appointed by the ruling AKP to raise consciousness about the solution process to the Kurdish-Turkish conflict.)
Kurdish Actors Are Saying “Enough”
In a written statement, the Kurdish Women’s Movement (Koma Jinen Blind) said that the package is ‘stillborn’ and called the “women of Kurdistan and Turkey to embrace their struggle for rights.” The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) members have made a call to the Kurdish parliamentarians of the AKP and the Republican People’s Party (CHP), inviting them to say ‘enough’ (Êdi Bes E) to policies of assimilation and cultural genocide that seek to ignore, destroy and assimilate the Kurdish language, culture, identity and history. In a written statement, the People’s Democratic Congress (HDK) called the package an attempt at “eyewashing”. “If we leave aside the articles that are de facto in use with great struggle and costs, and those that are simply a make-up”, the statement read, “instead of proposing solutions, this package is simply delaying the process and preaching people to vote for the AKP.”
The Human Rights Foundation (İHD) Amed (Diyarbakır) branch and Amed Peace Mothers Initiative have been equally critical. Emine Deniz, a representative of the Peace Mothers Initiative said, “Mothers whose children are in the mountains were expecting their children to come back with this package. Mothers whose children are in prisons were expecting them to be free. We were expecting the package to bring peace. But nothing came out of it.”
The proposed plan for education in the mother tongue in private schools has also received much criticism from the Kurdish community. Zana Farqînî, the president of the Istanbul Kurdish Institution stated, “A people’s language cannot be restricted to private schools. If they say, “assimilation is over”, then all rights should be given to the people. This is what our era demands. The regulations for education in the mother tongue fall short of expectations. It’s a product of a mentality that pushes Kurdish out of the public sphere. It is a reflection of a monist mentality.” General secretary of KURDÎ-DER İbrahim Halil Taş said, “Now only those who have money can get education in their mother tongue. This is a right, it cannot be restricted by economic conditions.”
Religious Minorities Are Disappointed
Religious minorities were also disappointed with the reform package. Garo Paylan, member of the People’s Democracy Party’s (HDP) executive committee, and the Assyrian writer Tuma Çelik expressed their disappointment with the package. Paylan stated, “For us it is a great disappointment that the word ‘minority’ is wholly ignored and there are no improvements for us. We had a lot of expectations about the package. First of all, we were expecting the Halki Seminary to open. If there was a legislation for that, it would be exemplary for many others, but there wasn’t.”
Tuna Çelik has stated that the decision to hand the lands of the Mor Gabriel Monastery to the Assyrians was an improvement, but that the lack of any mention of the Halki Seminary, or peoples and cultures in general was disappointing.
The Chairman of the Confederation of Public Workers’ Union (KESK) Lami Özgen criticized the changes regarding the right to protest and to strike. “If the law passes like this,” he said, “public demonstrations will be at the hands of the governor; the governor will decide the time, place, and appropriateness of every demonstration. There are no improvements in crucial areas such as the freedom of expression, organization, social contract and strike. There is no mention of work safety at all.”
Islamist writer and member of the Anti-Capitalist Muslims İhsan Eliaçık also stated: “The governor and the Prime Minister could not get rid of the Gezi psychology. The government discriminates those who demand reform by whether they joined Gezi or not. In the past you would be fined for speaking Kurdish in public, now you have to pay money to learn Kurdish. For the package to be effective, the government should commit itself to a package that would be harmful to itself.”