Survey shows Diyarbakir residents desire more decentralisation
The survey shows that 50% of respondents said they want ''democratic autonomy.''
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 23/03/12
As attempts to solve Turkey's Kurdish problem have stalled, a survey published this week by the Diyarbakir-based Centre of Social and Political Research (SAMER) reveals the demand by Diyarbakir's Kurds for some form of decentralised government.
More than 87% of Diyarbakir residents said a referendum is the most effective way to determine their future form of governance. When asked how respondents would vote in a referendum, 49.2% called for ''democratic autonomy'', 19.2% for ''independence'', 5.4% for ''federation'', while 7.1% said ''decentralised administration''. In addition, 3.4% didn't answer and 13% responded that they didn't know.
Answering the question of whether Kurdish should be an official language in Turkey, 83% of the respondents said ''yes'', 9% ''no'', and 8% declined to answer.
Raci Bilici, head of the Human Rights Association's Diyarbakir branch, says that the survey results are ''a big challenge'' for the government.
''The AKP should take it seriously,'' he told SES Türkiye, arguing that many in Diyarbakir are ''deeply disappointed that [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has not followed through on the promises he stated in the region last year.''
''The AKP promised to take care of both human rights and economic issues in the region, but since then, very little has happened on the positive side while plenty has occurred on the negative side,'' he noted.
In particular, arrests under the ongoing Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case, including pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) members in local administrations, have had a negative effect on Kurds' perception of the government.
According to the survey, 67.6% of respondents said the KCK trials have had a negative or very negative effect on the Kurdish problem, while 6.4% said there was no effect, 8.8% said a positive or very positive effect, and 17.2% refused to answer.
"The AKP can't go any further [regarding the Kurdish issue] by continuing to arrest people. This makes people more furious and hopeless. The more arrests that happen, the less belief there is left for the AKP in Diyarbakir,'' he said, adding that the government should prove every single case.
However, Ali Ihsan Merdanoglu, a former Kurdish AKP MP from the city, doesn't think such surveys portray the real picture of the region, because people in Diyarbakir are afraid to oppose the PKK's position when asked questions in public.
''The trauma of the PKK's attacks and terrorism campaign is still seared into the memories of those who live here,'' he told SES Türkiye.
The AKP's Mehmet Metiner, a Kurdish deputy, also insists the government's reforms have been significant.
''One can't say these are just small steps. The recognition of the Kurdish problem by our government, the freedom to use Kurdish language, most Kurdish people are satisfied with this," he said.
The AKP will take new steps to advance Kurdish rights, says Professor Ilhan Kaya, chairman of the Diyarbakir-based Dicle University's Social Research Centre, noting that calls for independence are still growing.
''We've also done similar surveys before and it's no secret that the people in Diyarbakir want to see their future under autonomy, so this wasn’t surprising,'' he said.
Most people have traditionally been angry at the government over the social and economic problems Diyarbakir faces, he underlines. In the survey, 33% of respondents said they made between zero and 350 Turkish lira per month (147 euros), while only 3% made over 2,000 Turkish lira (837 euros).
For Ekrem Eddy Guzeldere, an analyst at the Istanbul office of the European Stability Initiative, further explanations regarding the different dimensions of autonomy are required.
''What is clear [in the latest survey] is that not even 20% [of respondents] want independence, but degrees of decentralisation and strengthening of local administrations. This is neither surprising nor spectacular,'' he told SES Türkiye.
In strengthened local administrations, he explains, there should be the possibility to have more than one official language.
''The local administrations should have the right to decide concerning the use of Kurdish, Zazaki [Kurdish], Arabic or other languages in the running of the municipalities and the services provided,'' he added.
SAMER's survey was conducted between March 6-7 in central Diyarbakir, among 300 random participants with a confidence interval of 90% and +/- 5% margin of error.