A Kurdish Autonomous Region in Turkey Modeled on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Aland Mizell

“Turkey should allow the creation of local legislatures apart from the national Parliament” and should create several autonomous regions in Turkey, such as autonomous Eastern and Central Black Sea regions, as well as an autonomous region for the Kurds.  At the panel discussion in the eastern province of Tunceli a couple of weeks ago, Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir made this statement, which included a proposal for this effect. Baydemir strongly argued for an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey where the Turkish flag would fly next to the Kurdish banner on all official buildings. However, he got heavy criticism from some of the nationalists such as Cemil Cicek, who accused Mayor Baydemir of speaking nonsense. Probably behind closed doors the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were discussing the real solution to what Mayor Baydemir proposed will be. In my view, since the AKP is a big fan of the Ottoman Empire and since the Kurds were semi-autonomous during the Ottoman Empire, the AKP would do well to consider a semi-autonomous Kurdish region. I think Mayor Baydemir was frank in his proposal, but that the AKP and other politicians would like to see a realistic solution to the Kurdish problem. Once Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic insightfully argued, “Without free, self respecting, and autonomous citizens there can be no free and independent nations. Without internal peace, that is, peace among citizens and between the citizens and the state, there can be no guarantee of external peace.” If Turkey wants to be the leader of the Muslims and the Middle East and now competes for this leadership with Iran, the Turkish government must solve the Kurdish problem because Turkey’s leadership depends on how it deals with its “Kurdish question.”  Thus, it is better to listen to what Baydemir proposed-- a democratic autonomy. Turkey will not solve the problem by sending the police to the region, by empowering prosecutors, by putting Kurdish leaders in jail, or by talking empty politics, but rather it will resolve it by listening to the Kurds.

Actually Mr. Cemil Cicek himself speaks nonsense and has no clue what is going on in the world. Autonomy and regional self-governance are part of the political systems in all large, democratic countries. What Mr. Cicek fails to understand, or did not want to understand. is that Mayor Baydemir’s analysis that conflict between the Kurds and the Turkish government is based on a very long history of the Turkish government’s refusing to listen to the Kurdish people. However, Mr. Cicek and Prime Minister Erdogan (the leader of the AKP party), if you would really like to make any progress toward change, you must show sincerity toward reconciliation. When you have your meeting, you should include the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leaders because without their support, you are not going to solve the problem. You should not exclude them; you should talk to them, but not leave out the BDP members in order to start mutual truth-building.

After genuine talks begin, the AKP and other members may use this time to consider seriously Mayor Baydemir’s proposal and even the idea of the  late president Özal to create a statewide local administration that is accountable to the central authority and the local population by transferring some power of the state policies to the hands of local people. Kurds then will be able to work with the Turkish government to show their full citizenship, committing to the unity of the country; engaging as good productive members of society; and establishing social, economical and political structures, so they can be members of the Turkish community.  For example, the success of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao results in part from clear lines for the different levels of players in the Philippines ‘system. The ARMM region externally depends on Manila, but internally they are autonomous.  At the top the government is in charge of defense, external affairs, major taxes, etc.  At the next level, the state is responsible for administering public order, agriculture, and education. The Philippines’ national government and ARMM government work together on issues of economic and social planning and higher education.

The Philippines’ ARMM has a population of more than three million in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and the City of Marawi. The ARMM region is headed by one regional governor, one regional vice-governor, and twenty-four representatives of the Regional Legislative Assembly serving the eight districts’ of the five provinces and one city of the region. In the specific areas of autonomy, Muslims are to be given the right establishing their own courts that will implement the Islamic Law. Muslims are to be represented in all courts, including the Supreme Court. Furthermore, authorities of the ARMM region have the right to set up schools, colleges, and universities, as well their own administration system in compliance with the objectives of the ARMM region and its institutions. Being autonomous gives opportunity for an ARMM arrangement with its own administration of economic and social systems but does mean that its inhabitants desire to be totally independent from the Philippines. This kind of system could be the model for Turkey.

In addition, the creation of the ARMM region was quite a significant improvement for the political settlements between the Muslims and the Philippine government.  This type of system would help both the Kurds and the Turks to move toward a greater state of Turkey.  It is important to empower the Kurds with recourse and abilities to fight for social, political and economic issues in the region; it is not enough just to say there is a power sharing agreement in southeastern Turkey. Turkey has made mistakes in the past in that it did not let the Kurdish minorities have their voice in the decision making process. That is why they have a trust problem today and will continue to have one if Ankara does not include the Kurds in the decision making process. Is it poverty and a poor quality of life that causes the Kurds to engage in violence or do Kurds see secession as the best alternative to promote their welfare? What would make the Kurdish citizens feel a part of the country?

Plato once said that a tyrant is always stirring up some war or other in order that the people may require a leader. That is why today we see a sudden increase of violence. The solution to the problem is about rebuilding the relationship that has been broken. The two entities need to determine common, shared values and an understanding of a joint future. If the government continues not to talk about the BDP, continues to divide the Kurds into bad Kurds and good Kurds, continues not to include the elected Kurdish politicians in the decision making process, continues to jail the Kurdish politicians; if the destruction of the villages is not addressed and compensated for by the government, if extrajudicial killings have not been tackled, then there will never be a peace process. The Turkish government must discuss the past and work through the injustices meaningfully so that they can focus more on future building. Before doing that, however, the government must acknowledge the past mistakes, not just blame one party. The example above shows that there is a greater good for the Kurds and the Turks if the Turkish government takes seriously Mayor Baydemir’s call for an autonomous region for the Kurdish people. This will give a sense of local ownership to the Kurdish people, and then the voice of the Kurds will be with the Turkish state. This kind of approach has been absent in the Turkish government’s agenda for a long time.

Dr. Aland Mizell: aland_mizell1@hotmail.com


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August 18, 2010
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