On behalf of the Human Rights Association (IHD), I would like to express my warmest regards to all of you,
I will try to make a speech about the situation of Kurdish Question in Turkey in terms of Copenhagen Criteria within this short time.
Human Rights Association (IHD) considers the Kurdish Question as a human rights problem. There will not be a Kurdish Question when individual and community rights, which are pointed out in the fundamental human rights instruments, will be exercised by Kurds.
When we examine the Kurdish Question in terms of Copenhagen Political Criteria;
In terms of pluralistic principle of Democracy; there is still a political atmosphere, where monist mentality and culture of this mentality is being tried to be kept on, in Turkey. Definition of the citizenship, which based upon Turkish ethnic origin in the Turkish Constitution and not recognizing any other ethnic origin, religious or sect (like Alevis) identity as well as different language groups indicate that monist mentality is going on. Not recognizing education in mother tongue in the Turkish Constitution is a serious obstacle for solution of the Kurdish Question. Although attending a private course to learn Kurdish is free for people over 18 years old, private courses were closed due to lack of interest. Recognizing existence of different peoples and cultures as well as right to education in mother tongue in the Constitution, preparing a definition of constitutional citizenship are primary issues to be solved.
Although the paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Article 39 of the Treaty of Lausanne, which has established the Turkish Republic, state;
“No restrictions shall be imposed on the free use by any Turkish national of any language in private intercourse, in commerce, religion, in the press, or in publications of any kind or at public meetings.Notwithstanding the existence of the official language, adequate facilities shall be given to Turkish nationals of non-Turkish speech for the oral use of their own language before the Courts.” This main rule is still violated. For instance; prohibition of use of Kurdish language in prisons, prohibition of propaganda in Kurdish for political parties, prohibition of correspondence in Kurdish for associations, prohibition of sermon in Kurdish, prohibition of names in Kurdish according to Latin alphabet. Not only Turkish Republic but also other states especially England and France that signed the treaty has responsibility for ongoing of these prohibitions. Within the context of responsibility of other states that signed the Treaty of Lausanne, I would like to remind that Kurdish Question is an international question, too. Countries, which have supported Turkey in regard to crimes that committed against Kurds and other peoples during the 1990s that was described by Mesut Yılmaz-one of the former prime ministers of the country-as the state had acted in an unlawful manner, and when the violence was dominant, are responsible too. We, human rights defenders, do not want to experience serious human rights violations that resulted from solution of the Kurdish Question based on violence. According to data of the IHD, there are 840 forcedly disappeared for political reasons, 2949 unknown killings (for us these unknown killings have been conducted by illegal organizations belong to the state), 2308 extrajudicial executions, 709 people were killed in detention places and prisons since 1990. Of course, these are not the exact numbers of the all incidents because these are the numbers that IHD could determine or based on applications made to the Association. We do not want to experience the dark period of the 20th Century at the beginning of 21st Century.
Some Kurdish letters, which are used in the Kurdish TV Channel, in the Latin alphabet are accepted as forbidden in the Turkish alphabet that is, in fact, a Latin alphabet, too and caused prohibition of thousands names of people and change of name of places and hundreds people were sent to prison and now there is an atmosphere in which as if these facts were forgotten. Actually, the Government and especially the Parliament must apologize to Kurds. Although establishing a TV Channel in Kurdish language, which was considered as unknown language until recent time, is a positive improvement, the question can be solved with recognizing Kurdish identity and a Constitutional circumstance that will provide an atmosphere for survival of the identity. Still existence of Kurdish language is not accepted in the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM), speech of parliamentary of members in Kurdish is written in meeting minutes as a speech in an unknown language. There is comedy of monist mentality.
Common and strong reactions of Kurds in 2008 have shown that the question must be solved through peaceful policies. Other peoples, like Kurds, live in Turkey want peace. Militarist policies, which insist on solutions based on violence, are not solution anymore.
In accordance with clarity principle of the democracy; the state structure, as a result of deadlock in the Kurdish Question, carries out its activities mostly via secret documents. Acceptance of the paper of the national security policy, which is prepared by members of the National Security Council, without presenting to the TBMM and directives on almost every issue, is a serious intervention to the clarity principle of the democracy. IHD and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) brought a law suit before the Council of State for the cancellation of council of ministers secret decision that put the document into effect. We suppose that the decision of the suit will be made in this year. Moreover, activities of the illegal organizations in the state are maintained via using concept of state secret. The outcomes of insistence of violence based solution in the Kurdish Question are continual bombing on the North Iraq and establishing a new undersecretariat for security. Opening the Ergenoken case, which has started as an investigation in 2007, and new investigations are an important step. However the investigation does not include crimes committed in East and Southeast regions of Turkey. Not including the crimes in the region has caused a serious disappointment in Kurdish and democrat public opinion. Although detention and arrest of the highest rank generals has abolished a taboo in Turkey, the state’s unwilling to face realities of the Kurdish Question is a serious problem that should be overcome. Therefore the sensitive public opinion, particularly human rights defenders, will be in a more active effort and attitude to face realities, finding out crimes, sentence of people who are responsible for these crimes and finding out truth. Guarantee of a peaceful solution in the Kurdish Question is not change only in legislation but also in mentality. In order to accomplish it, truth must be found out and realities must be faced. It is a task in front of us.
In terms of participation principle of the democracy, the current situation of the Kurdish Question puts a period in front of us that we should follow carefully. There is a still % 10 threshold, which is high, for elections and political parties regime is full of prohibitions and closure threats for parties in Turkey. The ongoing court case against the Democratic Society Party or DTP concerns us. EU officials, like they did in the court case against the Justice and Development Party or AKP, should interest in the court case against the DTP, should not they! When EU officials will break isolation, which is practised by the Turkish Government too, on the DTP it will have an important role for peaceful solution of the Kurdish Question. Democratic Autonomy Project, which has been presented to the Parliamentary by the DTP, is an important argument for accomplishment of local administration (decentralization) principle. There should be a free atmosphere, in which people will vote according to their preference, in the forthcoming elections that will be held in March 2009. Increase in violence after the Prime Minister’s claim that AKP would win the municipality in Diyarbakır and Tunceli that are provinces in the Southeast region, serious attacks by security forces members against children and women who have joined demonstrations and arrests and serious sentences given to children, the Prime Minister’s monist expression show the AKP’s approach towards the Kurdish Question. There is an impression that AKP wants to solve the Kurdish Question via a Kurdish type that it will create in accordance with its religious and political ideology. It is dangerous. The Kurdish Question, which has not been solved via nationalism, cannot be solved via religious community (ummah), too. It is clear that such an approach will not be accepted by Kurds. If EU and the European Parliament officials will monitor the Local Elections in March 2009 in a satisfactory level, it will be useful for having elections with fewer problems. According to complaints made to our branches in East and Southeast regions, some of the governors and district governors have already started elections campaigns in favour of AKP, and such campaigns are signals for various kinds of interventions to the elections in March.
Turkey is a country, which has failed in terms of the rule of law. The monist mentality, which is based on not recognizing the Kurdish identity and not keeping its culture alive, has shaped the law, too. Although the Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution states that In the case of a conflict between international agreements in the area of fundamental rights and freedoms duly put into effect and the domestic laws due to differences in provisions on the same matter, the provisions of international agreements shall prevail, not having an independent and impartial judiciary system has blocked Turkey in terms of improvement in the field of the rule of law. There is still military judiciary system, with its all institutions, in Turkey. State Security Courts maintain their practices as there is change of their name only. High Judiciary Organs have court practices according to the state’s approach towards the Kurdish Question. Despite the Article 90 of the Constitution, unfortunately there is no change in the judicial practices. Moreover there is a serious problem of immunity in Turkey because members of the parliament, ministries, soldiers, policemen and all other civil servants are protected via a comprehensive immunity shield. Although there is no article about prescription for the crimes against humanity in the new Penal Code, the ongoing “impunity policy” blocks getting a result and path to the rule of law. Turkey should be a party to the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute, which has established the International Criminal Court immediately. Thus the international community will have accomplished an important function for breaking the impunity policy via international assistance.
Conscientious objection, which has an important function in struggle against militarism and is also a right, is considered as a serious problem in Turkey. Requirements, resulted from the decision by the ECtHR about the case Ülke vs Turkey (39437/98), have not been fulfilled yet.
In terms of the freedom of expression; it has been revealed that the amendment of the Article 301 has not made any change in the essence of the article, so; problem in this field is going on. There has been no change in the following articles, which are related with freedom of expression; Turkish Penal Code (TCK) articles 215, 216, 217, 220/8, 222, 288, 300, 305 and 318 and articles in the Anti-Terror Law (TMK). Even after the amendment of the Article 301 of the TCK, the Ministry of Justice has given permission for opening court case in more than 50 files and especially in the file of the author Mr. Temel Demirer, the Ministry has asked for judge in a manner that sentences the author. Articles of the penal code about the freedom of expression are being used severely when there is a court case against Kurds and subsequently they are sentenced. This issue has been pointed out in the EU Turkey progress report. The most problematic event in the field of the freedom of expression is that the High Court has made decisions according to which people can be sentenced as a member of illegal organizations, in accordance with the Article 220 of TCK, though they are not. These decisions have been made to sentence people as a member of illegal organization if their expressions in demonstration show similarity with expressions of illegal organizations. It is a decision, which has been made to reduce social opposition to silence. This decision aims to make Kurdish public opinion ineffective. This decision of the High Court is even opposite to the Turkish Constitution of 1982. The judiciary decisions, which are not impartial, in regard to the freedom of expression have been sustained with old State Security Court’s practices through new heavy penal courts. Increase in number of arrest people is a typical indication of this situation.
Practising torture, arrest and judge to sentence with the heaviest imprisonment Kurdish children, who join meetings and demonstrations and throw stones to policemen, and judging them before special Heavy Penal Courts, instead of Child Courts, show seriousness of situation. Turkey continues to violate the Convention on the Rights of Child (1989 ) in terms of Kurdish children seriously. In mass demonstrations, which have organized by Kurds in February, March, May, October and November 2008 and in which Kurds like rebelled, police and gendarmerie forces used excessive force has resulted torture practices in streets. Images of policemen, who were breaking arm of a child, are still in our minds. However EU has not shown adequate sensitivity to this violation.
The report, which has been prepared related with the campaign conducted by the IHD about sick prisoners in Turkey, shows that violations in prisons have reached to a very high level. Total number of prisoners are higher than the capacity of prisons in Turkey. Prisoners’ fundamental rights are ignored, subsequently; prisoners’ many rights especially right to life, right to health, right to communication, right to conversation and linguistic rights have been violated. Isolation practices in High Security Prisons are going on. Violations in Imrali Prison, in which Mr. Abdullah Öcalan is being kept, have caused serious reactions by democratic public opinion and many Kurdish people. The requirements mentioned in reports by the CPT have not been fulfilled. The joint application of the IHD, HRFT and Mazlum-Der to deploy a mission to the Imrali One Person Prison has not been accepted by the Ministry of Justice. We hope that the Government’s statements, which have been announced to the public opinion, will decrease problems in Imrali prison in 2009 to the lowest level. IHD has stated many times that Imrali prison should be closed. Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) has not been ratified yet.
The current situation for respect to human rights, which has a fluctuate table, is going down. The AKP Government, which insist on implementing policies based on violence that expect something from this kind of solution for the Kurdish Question, has changed Anti-Terror Law in a manner which is more against human rights than the former version in 2006, allowed police forces to use their gun arbitrarily in an opposite manner to the Constitution, has not abolished regulations that limit freedom of expression in the TCK, increase in torture incidents in prisons and detention places and refugee tragedies show that there is not a good picture in our country. The Government has not established a national human rights institute within the frame of Paris Principles, and does not have direct contact with human rights organizations for about last two years indicate that the Government considers human rights as a security problem. Indeed, the state ministry for human rights is also the minister for security. This situation shows the Government’s mentality.
There is no minority definition, which is suitable to human rights concept, in Turkey. Turkey defines only non-Muslim groups, which are accepted in the Treaty of Lausanne, as minority. Kurds, who can be defined under minority status, do not want to be included in this definition because they consider themselves as one of the main founding groups of the Turkish Republic. Defining Kurds, who are right in terms of history, as indigenous or minority or main founding group does not have a great importance in terms of human rights. The important point is that their wish to reach a level in which they will benefit from fundamental rights that they deserve as a people.
The Kurdish Question is in a level that is closest to solution than ever. Unless the Kurdish Question will be solved, it seems that Turkey’s EU membership is not possible. Actually solving the Kurdish Question, which is a human rights problem, in a manner that is suitable to humanitarian law is our wish. Finally, I would like to express that I think the Turkish policy, which is in a deadlock situation can improve via accepting the Copenhagen Political Criteria as a guide for it.
Öztürk Türkdoğan, lawyer