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BDP wants autonomy for Kurds in new Constitution

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News | 9/4/2011 12:00:00 AM | GÖKSEL BOZKURT

Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP holds its second general convention Sunday on the theme of ‘Autonomous Kurdistan, Democratic Turkey’. The party added its much-discussed proposal of ‘democratic autonomy’ to the party’s charter, making it an institutional demand in talks with the government

Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party added its much-discussed proposal of “democratic autonomy” to the party’s charter on Sunday, making it an institutional demand in talks with the government on the new constitution.

Holding its second general convention Sunday on the theme of “Autonomous Kurdistan, Democratic Turkey,” the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, also hinted it might continue boycotting Parliament unless a suitable political atmosphere could be created through urgent discussions over its eight-article protocol, which contains the recognition of regional autonomy for Kurds.

Selahattin Demirtaş, elected as head of the BDP, said the party has not withdrawn from Parliament but has not seen “an environment for democratic politics so far.”

“As of today, we do not see this environment. This position of ours should be understood rightly,” Demirtaş said in his address to his colleagues during the convention.

BDP deputies refused to take their parliamentary oaths in protest of the court decisions banning the release from prison of five party deputies following the June 12 elections. The political tension was ratcheted up by the rise in terror acts by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Some expected the BDP deputies to take the oath Oct. 1, the day Parliament ends its summer recess.

“No politician can remain silent while the country is heading through a very difficult and bloody process. This is why we propose urgent negotiations,” Demirtaş said, asking for the continuation of talks between state officials and Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK.

The key points of these negotiations were announced by BDP co-chair Gültan Kışanak as part of a protocol to be discussed with the government. “A constitutional guarantee for all [peoples] existing in Turkey should be equally referenced in the new charter without reference to any higher identity,” read the first point of the protocol, which emphasized the principle of “constitutional citizenship.”

The free and unconditional use of mother tongues, including at state schools and in government offices, should be protected by the constitution. Protection of all cultures; decentralization through enhancing the duties and responsibilities of local municipalities; full rights to workers including the right to strike; removing all hurdles before women’s participation in political, economic and cultural life; constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression and press in line with universal practices; and maintaining ecologic balances through a sustainable environmental policy were other points of the protocol outlined by Kışanak.

Other parts of the protocol request the removal of the 10 percent election threshold, an amendment of the current political parties’ law and work on new legislation for the release of deputies behind bars. House arrest for Öcalan is sought by the protocol as well.

The PKK chief’s brother, Mehmet Öcalan, was elected to the BDP’s Party Assembly at the congress.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

[HH] Government should end operations

The recent rise in terror acts and the Turkish military’s cross-border operations into northern Iraq were also discussed during the convention. Calling on both the PKK and the military to end the attacks, Demirtaş said: “This war should immediately be ended. The government should terminate operations and the PKK its acts. The BDP can contribute to the PKK’s laying down of its arms through helping the state correct its wrong policies.”

Claiming that Turkey and Iran were mulling a joint land operation against PKK bases in northern Iraq, Demirtaş said “this was a great trap for Turkey as this could immediately turn into a regional war.”

“What we demand is not more than Syrian opposition demands or the Libyan rebels for whom you carried millions in cash. [What we demand] is not more than oppressed Palestinian people demand,” he added.

[HH] Congress for autonomy

The theme of the BDP’s congress, held at Ankara’s Ahmet Taner Kışlalı Sports Center, was supported by placards in Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Syriac and Zaza. Some placards praised Öcalan as the sole leader who can bring peace by solving the Kurdish question.

Leaders of minor leftist parties also joined Kurdish politicians at the congress and BDP leaders emphasized the need to establish an umbrella party to unite like-minded people. Posters of legendary icons of the socialist struggle in Turkey were hung in the hall and unlike at previous party conventions, a huge Turkish flag was raised as well.

The only key figure absent was BDP deputy Bengi Yıldız, who drew reactions from party colleagues when he was seen in the popular holiday resort of Bodrum with a woman other than his wife and drinking beer during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

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