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Experts urge Turkey to act on Kurdish issue

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 9/13/2010 12:00:00 AM |

The success of the main pro-Kurdish party's boycott call indicates the increasing clout of the group and the need for the government to pay more attention to Kurdish issues, commentators have said.

The success of the main pro-Kurdish party’s boycott call indicates the increasing clout of the group and the need for the government to pay more attention to Kurdish issues, commentators have said following Sunday’s constitutional referendum.

“The result reveals that it is necessary to address the group that adopts Kurdish identity policies toward solving the Kurdish problem,” columnist Ahmet İnsel wrote Monday in a piece in daily Radikal.

Apart from Tunceli, all eastern and southeastern provinces voted “yes” in the referendum, though participation rates were generally extremely low, reflecting the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP’s, call for a boycott of the poll.

Hakkari, located in the far southeastern corner of Turkey, had the lowest participation in the country at just 9 percent, according to the website of the Supreme Election Board, or YSK. Şırnak had the second-lowest rate at 22.5 percent, followed by Diyarbakır, the most populous province in eastern Turkey, at 34.8 percent. Batman had the fourth-lowest participation rate, at 40.6 percent.

Faik Bulut, a writer of Kurdish origin, said Monday in a televised interview on the private CNNTürk news channel that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should take new steps to show his sincerity in solving the Kurdish issue before the Sept. 20 end of the unilateral cease-fire declared by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

The prime minister could start by asking why nine PKK members were killed in Hakkari despite the group’s cease-fire declaration, Bulut said.

Touching on the many people who were detained on accusations of forcing people to boycott Sunday’s referendum, Bulut said those who had not been involved in any criminal activity should be released.

During the BDP’s boycott celebrations in Diyarbakır, party leader Selahattin Demirtaş said the group would continue its efforts until the goal of “democratic autonomy” was achieved. Gülten Kışanak, vice head of the BDP, echoed this comment, saying the people in the region had voiced their demands for a “democratic autonomous Kurdistan” by boycotting the Sept. 12 referendum.

Like Bulut, Demirtaş also called on Erdoğan to take immediate action on the Kurdish question before the end of the PKK cease-fire.

“The PKK and [its jailed leader Abdullah] Öcalan should be recognized as an interlocutor in the solution to the Kurdish issue,” Demirtaş said Sunday, directly following the announcement of the referendum results.

Although the BDP celebrated the boycott as a victory, participation rates in some of the regional provinces were relatively high. Some 43 percent of voters in Mardin cast votes, as did 43.6 percent in Van, 50.8 percent in Siirt, 51 percent in Iğdır, 54 percent in Muş, 56.4 percent in Ağrı, 68.4 percent in Şanlıurfa and 76.9 percent in Bingöl.

In the Mediterranean province of Mersin, where there is also a significant Kurdish minority, the participation rate was 72.8 percent.

Daily Milliyet columnist Taha Akyol attributed the gap in participation rates to neighborhood pressure in rural areas, especially in Hakkari and Şırnak.

Fikret Bila, however, wrote in his column in the same paper Monday that the pressure did not explain the success of the boycott, saying many voluntarily stayed home from the polls.

Muhsin Kızılkaya, a writer of Kurdish origin, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that the boycott was successful in only four or five cities, while the participation rates elsewhere were higher.

Some 95 percent of voters in Ağrı said “yes” to the referendum, as did 92 percent in Muş, he said, arguing that the participation rates in these provinces were not particularly low.

Kızılkaya said the boycott was not a choice but merely a “positioning,” adding that the BDP had not made it clear what was to come in the wake of the boycott.

“The boycott is a mass action that showed the Kurds want their voice to be heard,” Kızılkaya said, adding that the most significant result of the referendum was that the government had been encouraged to continue its Kurdish initiative with the support of the people.

The writer also said the government should immediately start working on ways to persuade active PKK members to lay down their weapons, especially before Sept. 20.

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