Government selects prominent figures for 'wise people' list to help on peace process

Government selects prominent figures for 'wise people' list to help on peace process

Government selects prominent figures for wise people list to help on peace process Artists, a musician, a large group of journalists, academics, intellectuals and representatives from non-governmental organizations, were included on a long-awaited list of “wise people,” a government initiative that will take an active role in the country’s recent efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.

The 63 prominent names on the list were carefully picked by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said after a press meeting today.

The seven groups of wise people, each of which will represent one of the seven geographical regions in Turkey, are set to meet with Erdoğan in Istanbul on April 4.

Several Turkish celebrities, including actors Kadir İnanır, Lale Mansur, Yılmaz Erdoğan, Hülya Koçyiğit and musician Orhan Gencebay, were named in a government list published on daily Hürriyet’s website.

Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB) Chairman Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, Doğan TV Holding Chairwoman Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ and prominent academic Murat Belge are some of the other figures on the list.

Each group has a president, a vice president and a secretary and consists of nine people. Meeting with opinion leaders; holding symposiums, panels and conferences; making one-on-one contacts; and getting in touch with local, national and international media are among the things the commission members are expected to do, according to Erdoğan.


Professor Doğu Ergil, a member of the Central Anatolia group, raised questions about the method in a phone interview with the Hürriyet Daily News. “It will not be easy to say that people who were presented as traitors until today are also the people of this country,” he said.

Abdurahman Dilipak, a columnist at Yeni Akit, said the group’s target was mediation. “Hopefully we will contribute to peace,” he said. Muhsin Kızılkaya, a Kurdish-origin writer in the Mediterranean group believes in the benefits of the initiative. “This is a very good combination as it considers all levels of society,” he told the Daily News. Singer-songwriter Gencebay, part of the Black Sea group, said he would do all he could with a positive look. “Of course I said yes when I was invited, because I love my country. I believe that I am a good patriot,” he said.

Two declared figures have announced that they will not take part in today’s meeting. Vedat Ahsen Coşar, the head of Turkey’s Bar Association (TBB), said he had not accepted the offer. State-run Anatolia news agency quoted sources as saying later in the day that Yeni Akit columnist Hasan Karakaya would replace Coşar.

The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) Deputy Chairman Ali Rıza Osmanoğlu said the umbrella organization’s president, Erol Ekici, had resigned from his seat. “As we do not know about the authority and responsibilities of the group, we will not attend this meeting,” he said.

DİSK is at odds with the government as some of its members were detained in operations on the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), the outlawed organization.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy leader Haluk Koç mocked the group, saying it would act like companies or agencies that were running the government’s electoral campaigns. “The group looks like a cadre of public servants, to act like a bridge to carry the prime minister’s views to the public,” he said.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has appointed Akif Hamzaçebi, the party’s deputy parliamentary group chair, to refocus attention on the party’s previous suggestions on the Kurdish issue, sources said. Speaking during his party’s central executive board meeting in Ankara, Kılıçdaroğlu called for several issues, including a proposal to lower the election threshold and demine areas in the southeast, to be brought to Parliament, they also said.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Gültan Kışanak also criticized the formation of the list, saying that it did not have a sufficient number of females, academics and people who could help the Kurdish people express themselves directly.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy parliamentary group chair Oktay Vural likened the group to the body that was formed by the Armistice of Mudros after World War I, which aimed at preventing an Anatolian uprising against the invaders.

Meanwhile, many prominent figures, mainly journalists, have been subject to “wise people” jokes, with fake calls from government officials inviting them to join the group. As the announcement came only two days after April Fools’ Day, the joke was widespread, especially among those in the capital city of Ankara. Nevertheless, journalists still make up a sizable portion of the actual list.

Heads of wise people groups

The head of the Mediterranean Region Committee, M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu is the President of The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), which is the largest non-profit business organization in Turkey, covering 365 Chambers and Commodity Exchanges.

The head of the Eastern Anatolia Region Committee, Can Paker, is the chairman of the board of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV). Until last year he was also the chairman of the board of the Open Society Institute’s Istanbul branch from 2002.

The head of the Aegean Region Committee, Tarhan Erdem, is a columnist for daily Radikal and founded the KONDA Research and Consultancy organization in 1987. Erdem was a Member of Parliament for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in 1977.

The head of the Southeastern Anatolia Region Committee, Yılmaz Ensaroğlu, is currently working as the Director of Law and Human Rights Department of SETA (Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research).

The head of the Central Anatolia Region Committee, Ahmet Taşgetiren, is a columnist for daily Bugün and an author. He also has several programs on radios and TV channels.

The head of the Marmara Region Committee, Deniz Ülke Arıboğan, is a member of the Board of Trustees at Istanbul Bilgi University and is currently continuing her academic works in the fields of international relations and political science. She is also a columnist for the daily Akşam.

The head of the Black Sea Region Committee, Prof. Dr. Yusuf Sevki Hakyemez, is the Deputy Rector of the Black Sea Technical University, and a professor of public law.

Vercihan Ziflioğlu from Istanbul contributed to this report.