Tuncel: AKP must "make a decision" on Kurdish issue
The government should show whether it is committed to finding a solution, says pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) politician Sebahat Tuncel in an exclusive interview with SETimes.
By Anna Wood for Southeast European Times in Istanbul – 06/07/11
An unanticipated political crisis has emerged in the aftermath of Turkey's national elections. Elected parliamentarians from the main opposition CHP and the Kurdish-backed Labour, Democracy and Freedom bloc have been denied entry to parliament, ostensibly because of their criminal records.
Sebahat Tuncel (above) and BDP supporters were dispersed by riot police at a protest rally in Istanbul. [Reuters]
In protest, Kurdish independent candidates are staging a parliamentary boycott. CHP members, meanwhile, have entered but refuse to be sworn in.
BDP bloc candidate Sebahat Tuncel, the youngest female parliamentarian in Turkey's history, discusses the reactions of the Labour, Democracy and Freedom Bloc, the Kurdish people's demands, and the possibility of reaching an agreement with AKP.
SETimes: Can you describe the events in Sisli, Istanbul, where a clash broke out between Kurdish parliament members who were walking to a press conference, the public and the police? Will this event have larger repercussions?
Sebahat Tuncel: As the Labour, Democracy, and Freedom Bloc, our aim was to walk to Taksim to make a press statement to protest the High Election Organization’s decision to prevent Hatip Dicle and [the court's decision not to allow] other elected candidates who are in prison as part of the KCK case from serving as a parliamentarians despite having been elected.
However, we were confronted by a large attack. Without thought to the women and children, they attacked with gas bombs and clubs and tens of our friends were injured.
The events experienced in Sisli further exemplified the AKP administration's approach to the Kurdish problem. In their refusal to grant permission to a press conference, they clearly showed their preference for deepening the crisis and chaos.
SETimes: What are your expectations and greatest concerns regarding this situation?
Tuncel: Turkey's most fundamental problem is the Kurdish problem. Without solving the Kurdish problem, Turkey's democratisation and the creation of a democratic constitution are not possible.
Today, Kurds are asking for education in their native language, the ability to freely express their identity and culture, and the right to self-rule. They want these things to appear in the new constitution.
Today, it is unacceptable to take this problem, which has arrived at the solution stage, back to a level of conflict. From that perspective, we're hopeful, but this process won't be very easy. It will be defined by democratic forces and the freedom struggle of the Kurdish people. We take our hope from this struggle.
SETimes: Do you think it's possible to come to an agreement with the administration?
Tuncel: The administration needs to make a decision on the topic of finding a solution to the Kurdish problem. If they opt to live together with the Kurdish community, agreement and a solution are possible.
What we desire and what we strive for is the immediate establishment, via negotiations, of the peace craved by Turkey's peoples. Everyone should be responsible for this, but as the recipient of 50% of the people's votes in the last election, AKP is even more responsible. If AKP doesn't find a solution, if it doesn't fulfill this responsibility, Turkey might experience even greater conflict.
SETimes: Do you feel any sense of togetherness on this topic with CHP or MHP, or is your situation different?
Tuncel: Even if the events appear legally similar, it needs to be seen that we are in a very different political position. Both the reasons for our friends' arrests and Turkey's approaches to solving these problems are different. The arrest [of KCK members] are unjustly and illegally taking away the Kurdish people's right to political participation. We see this as the taking of political hostages and believe that such approaches must be abandoned at once, that they are themselves the fundamental cause of the crisis.
SETimes: If an agreement does occur and everyone, including Dicle, enters parliament, will it be possible for bloc candidates and AKP to work together while creating the new constitution?
Tuncel: If an agreement is reached and concrete steps are taken, this will be quite significant for Turkey’s future. If our friends are freed along with Hatip Dicle, this can be considered a gesture of good faith. If such a situation occurs, we would create a cooperative working platform for a democratic, pluralist, environmental and liberal constitution.
SETimes: Final thoughts?
Tuncel: The cause of the recent crisis in Turkey is not the Kurds or the bloc … As the current developments in the Middle East show, it's impossible to protect governments from people's demands for equality and freedom.
It's clear that Kurds aren't without alternatives on this topic. For us, parliament isn't the sole working space … Even if all our work occurs outside parliament, we will pursue our people's struggle for freedom and equality as if we were in parliament. From now on, Diyarbakır will be the centre of our group meetings and parliamentary work.
If this situation isn't solved, Turkey will have come to a political turning point. By refusing to recognize Kurds' right to political participation, Ankara may open up a path for Kurds to establish their own parliament …There is no legitimacy in a parliament that lacks the Labor, Democracy and Freedom Bloc.