Turkish government could broaden local ruling rights

Turkish government could broaden local ruling rights

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish government could broaden local ruling rights

Sur in Diyarbakır has welcome signs in Turkish, Kurdish, and Syriac.

Ankara is considering abolishing the reservations it has put on the Council of Europe’s Charter of Local Self-Government in an attempt to address the demands of the Kurdish population. The move may be part of a new, officially unannounced strategy, to both solve the Kurdish question and end terrorism.

According to information gathered by the Hürriyet Daily News from senior government officials, the abolition of the reservations on the charter could be discussed among Cabinet members in the course of the implementation of a new anti-terror strategy in combination with democratic and security measures. A Cabinet decree is sufficient to end the reservations on the charter, which was signed by Turkey in 1988 when reservations were put on almost all charter articles amid concerns about threats to the country’s unitary structure.

On the one hand, the move would help the government partially satisfy the demands of Kurds and win their hearts while, on the other, it would draw applause from the European Union and Council of Europe, which have long pressed Turkey to fully implement the charter.

Under what the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an umbrella organization of Kurdish political groups, calls “democratic autonomy,” Kurdish politicians have long sought broader autonomy for local administrations, which would empower local influence in the southeast Anatolian region. This would include the establishment of regional assemblies that would be authorized to pass laws in the areas of traffic, health and education.

The government, however, fiercely rejected the DTK’s plan while a chief prosecutor launched a judicial prosecution against leading Kurdish politicians over the matter.

The abolition of all reservations put on the charter was first brought to the country’s agenda by Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in April 2011, just before the general election. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan severely criticized his political rival over the suggestion at the time, accusing Kılıçdaroğlu of proposing a federal solution to the Kurdish question.
A year later, the government is now considering ending reservations to the charter.

Talks with opposition

In the meantime, senior government officials told the Daily News that the new anti-terror plan would be explained to opposition parties as well. “We are of the opinion that this plan is in such a shape that both the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] would endorse it,” one official said.

No request for a meeting on the issue has been made to any of these parties, however.

The Daily News has learned that the plan had already been explained to the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in recent weeks. Selahattin Demirtaş and Gültan Kışanak, co-chairpersons of the BDP, met with a prominent Cabinet members last month.

Government fine-tunes policies

In the meantime, parallel to the new counter-terrorism strategy, the government is examining some of its policies concerning Kurdish politicians.

One of the most important aspects deemed to be a hurdle before the new process are the ongoing operations against the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). A more sensitive handling of the KCK operations would likely be more helpful in implementing the new anti-terror strategy.

Likewise, an end to the use of disproportionate force by security forces in street protests is also significant. What damages this picture is the punching of prominent Kurdish politicians, like Ahmet Türk, who was hospitalized following a Nevruz rally in the southeastern province of Batman this week.