Constitution panel fails to agree on language, sovereignty

Constitution panel fails to agree on language, sovereignty

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Constitution panel fails to agree on language, sovereignty

BDP MP Altan Tan says the right to education in mother tongue is very crucial. AA photo

The Constitution Conciliation Commission has failed to agree on the use of languages in education and how to refer to sovereignty in the new text, adding to the long list of disputed articles for a potential new constitution.

The 12 members of the Parliamentary Constitution Conciliation Commission are currently discussing the “Fundamental Rights and Freedoms” part of the new constitution and are working to conclude the article on “Right and Freedom to Education.” The four parties could not reach agreement in writing most of the articles in this section so far.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) proposed writing the article as “The state takes all steps for everyone to enjoy his or her right to education in an equal, effective and uninterrupted way.” The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) insisted on writing the article as “Providing qualitative education to its citizens in their mother tongue is among the top duties of the state.”

The BDP’s Altan Tan argued that the problem of the right to education in mother tongue was among the top five issues that necessitate the new constitution, so an agreement on this issue was vital. “Education in mother tongue is applied in countries like Switzerland, Canada, Russia, Spain and China. We should listen to experts on this issue,” Tan said.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suggested deleting the article in the current Constitution which bars education in any language other than Turkish. “The problem stems from the ban imposed by the current Constitution. There was no such ban in the constitutions of 1924 and 1961. We believe this could pave the way for us to solve this issue,” the AKP members of the commission said, adding that this was not a constitutional problem and could be handled with laws.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) members refused the BDP’s proposal arguing that Turkishness did not reflect an ethnic identity but cultural integrity. “That’s why the means of education should be Turkish,” Oktay Öztürk of the MHP said. In response to this view, BDP’s Ata said she did not feel like a Turk as Turkishness could not be defined as the foremost identity. “I am a Kurd and speak in the Zazaki dialect of Kurdish,” she said.

Sovereignty as another problem

The panel members also discussed how to refer to sovereignty in the new charter as the current Constitution says “Sovereignty belongs to the Turkish people.” The MHP’s Öztürk said he refused to change this article. The BDP’s Tan said “The Kurds are one of the oldest elements of these lands. They settled on Anatolian lands much before Turks. They have never been in a master-butler relationship with anyone. The Kurds will never accept an article [that says] ‘Sovereignty belongs to the Turkish people.’”

The commission will meet Oct. 10 to discuss the articles on education and citizenship together in an attempt to find a solution to the disagreements.