Will government consider Kurdish demands?
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chairs Gültan Kışanak and Selahattin Demirtaş are seen in this file photo. DHA photoThe democratization package announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sept. 30 has not been deemed “satisfactory” by the Kurdish political front.
Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the PKK’s leaders on Kandil Mountain in northern Iraq, the PKK’s representatives in Europe and the spokespersons for the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have all said the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) package was far from contributing to the ongoing Kurdish peace process.
At a very recent meeting with state officials, Öcalan repeated his call to the government that the ball was still in its court to avoid a major disappointment, underlining that he was still hopeful for the good sake of the peace process.
While Öcalan is awaiting the state and the government’s decision over his proposal to engage in “intense negotiations,” spokespersons for the BDP and Kurdistan Communities’ Union (KCK) are trying to push the AKP to take further steps as they adopt a harder stance in the face of the government’s unsatisfactory moves. In this way, the BDP has drafted an action plan to be put into force in this new process. Simultaneously, it will also take into account whether or not the government is willing to engage in a more meaningful and intense dialogue with Öcalan.
The government’s way of handling talks with Öcalan or its moves to improve his conditions as well as to allow Öcalan to meet journalists, members of civil society and politicians will be seen as a sort of test of sincerity in the eyes of the BDP.
The action plan to be put into practice in this new term has three main stages. Reinforcing the democratization package through some amendments to already-announced articles of the package and holding talks with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin to this end constitute the first stage of this plan.
In the event of the AKP’s rejection of the BDP’s demands to reinforce the package, Kurds are planning to initiate the second stage of the plan, which envisages raising societal opposition. That means the party could call on its supporters to join in mass protests to show their disappointment.
The plan’s third stage is to organize what Öcalan has described as the Democratic Islam Congress.
Although the BDP will not be officially in the organization, it will seriously contribute to the planned meeting. According to some BDP members, the conference itself and its participants could well disturb the AKP.
Looking into the details of the first stage of the plan is essential. BDP officials believe that the AKP has come to the conclusion that “the disappointment created by the unsatisfactory democracy package has had a negative effect on the peace process.” Therefore, it’s of the opinion that the AKP could make ameliorate the package under what they would call goodwill gestures both for the continuation of the peace process and for the cease-fire, which is very important especially on the eve of local elections set for March 2014.
Amendment request list
BDP officials are well aware that these ameliorations will not include the right to education in citizens’ mother tongues or the approval of a local governance charter. That’s why they want to keep their expectations low and take the results accordingly. They want to submit a list of amendments to their AKP counterparts to this end.
On the top of the list are amendments to the Anti-Terror Law and the Penal Code, as the BDP seeks to expand the scope of freedom of expression so that those who have never committed violent acts or promoted violence should not be prosecuted on terror charges. The ultimate goal is to secure the release of hundreds Kurdish politicians who are behind bars in KCK cases.
Further broadening the right to assembly and to demonstrate, limiting the police’s authority to detain in favor of promoting individual liberties, simplifying the reasons for detention outlined in the law on criminal procedures and making further changes to the Political Parties Law to fully abolish prohibitions are some other points the BDP is planning to include on its list.
Will the AKP respond positively to the BDP’s demands? There are two different views on this at the party. On the one hand, there are those who believe that the release of KCK prisoners would further advance the peace process to the advantage of the AKP, especially in the southeast. On the other hand, some AKP officials have expressed concerns that such a move will trigger nationalistic reaction against the government and will lead to a reduction in its votes in the western part of the country. It should be noted that the last word will surely belong to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The government will perhaps think twice before taking such a step to expand the scope of the democracy package before local elections unless it can persuade lawmakers from other parties, such as the BDP and even the Republican People’s Party (CHP), to back its efforts.
Parliament to lift bans on wearing pants and headscarves
Starting from today, the issue of female lawmakers wearing headscarves in Parliament will mark another important debate among political parties. There was speculation that two AKP lawmakers, Gülay Sabancı and Gönül Bekin Şahkulubey, who have performed the hajj, could start wearing headscarves.The internal regulations of the Parliament which set the rules for lawmakers, were widely debated by an inter-party commission last year. Although the commission had agreed on 160 articles, it failed to find compromise over 22 articles, including the dress code, which left the internal regulation unchanged. There are rumors about the AKP’s plan to bring the internal regulations back to the agenda of the Parliament with expectations that a ban on wearing pants for female lawmakers and on the headscarf will be simultaneously lifted this time.
CHP on edge of headscarf crisis
There is great confusion among CHP officials about allowing the use of the headscarf in public offices. There are those who support lifting the ban and those who strongly oppose it.The CHP’s leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu indirectly supported the removal of the headscarf ban for university students by remaining silent on the governmental moves. But he did not take any position with regard to allowing headscarves in public offices.
Kılıçdaroğlu preferred to pass the ball to the party’s central-decision making bodies by underlining the lack of necessity of talking about a non-existent issue. The position Kılıçdaroğlu adopts on this issue could create internal tension in the party as the AKP prepares for such a move.