Members of Turkey's Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) proposed
a more decentralized Turkish government at a Brookings Institution
panel on Tuesday.
"We don't believe that a centralized system
of government that manages all of these different ethnic groups and
communities is viable and productive," said BDP chairman Selahattin
Demirtas. "We see this [decentralized government] as the most viable
Demirtas also emphasized that he is not calling for a completely independent Kurdish entity:
"We are not talking about the Kurdish people [living] in a region called Kurdistan."
he stressed that the BDP has no "organic relationship" with the
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which the Turkish government classifies
as a terrorist organization, Demirtas noted that the PKK is not the
problem, but a result of the problem:
"We believe the
PKK is part of the reality of this conflic, and we believe that they
should be communicated with.... We don't see the PKK as a problem, we
see it as a result of the problem."
Ahmet Türk of
the Democratic Society Party (DTP) agreed, and urged the audience to
consider that the Turkish government's longstanding policy of denying
its Kurdish citizens their civil rights might be the root of the
"You don't provide Kurds an opportunity to express themselves, so the PKK emerged."
Demirtas made sure to explain that his party does not condone violence,
he did take issue with the Turkish government's definition of terrorism:
means of violence that is being used has to be understood correctly.
The simple, traditional [definition of] terrorism cannot be used here.
This is a 100-year-old conflict.... As long as you are unable to define
it correctly, the wrong definition will cause misunderstanding."
member and Turkish parliamentarian Gülten Kisanak argued that the PKK's
numbers are evidence that the government must rethink its position
toward the organization:
"According to data provided by the Turkish chief of staff, since 1978 40,000 Kurds have participated in the PKK and lost their life in fighting the struggle. I believe these numbers cannot be seen as terrorism in that sense."
The BDP may support President Abdullah Gül's call for a new "flexible and freedom-based" constitution, but its forward-thinking notions about the PKK isn't going to win it many points with Ankara.
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