October 10, 2006

Intellectuals: Civil measures needed to solve Kurdish problem

The New Anatolian

A gathering of intellectuals over the weekend warned that military measures alone won't resolve the Kurdish problem, urging civil initiatives as well.

Conservative daily Zaman reported yesterday that about a dozen intellectuals from across the political spectrum discussed ways to resolve the Kurdish conflict at a meeting held by the daily. The intellectuals stressed the importance of civil initiatives for the resolution of the problem and of emphasizing religious bonds.

According to the report, the intellectuals argued that the military's measures against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are successful but not enough to resolve the Kurdish problem. They also underlined that more steps need to be taken to improve cultural, religious and educational rights in the country.

The PKK aims to block Turkey's EU accession process, argued the intellectuals, which is one reason Turkey should stick to the EU process and democratization.

The intellectuals suggested the government follow positive economic discrimination policies for the east and southeast, as economic development eases social and political problems.

The importance of religious bonds was a factor also emphasized at the meeting to establish unity in the country and develop a common ground for mutual understanding. The intellectuals argued that mutual understanding between Turkish and Kurdish people regarding each other's needs is essential for a social reconciliation process. One factor that should be emphasized in this process are the religious bonds that tie them together and a common history in the Ottoman era.

According to the intellectuals, providing Kurdish people with political channels to express and represent themselves is also important to ending violence and resolving the problem. They suggested that the 10 percent national threshold in the general elections, which is the major obstacle to pro-Kurdish parties winning seats in Parliament despite their high votes in the east, should be lowered or representation of pro-Kurdish parties should be ensured through different models, such as the election of all-Turkey deputies.

The intellectuals, concerned about a rise of tension between Kurds and Turks, argued that the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) should assume an active role in preventing provocations. Analyst Ali Nihat Ozcan said at the meeting that for the authorities to resolve the issue they should also be aware of the discomfort caused by the policies followed among the Turkish people.

For his part, academic Sedat Laciner underlined that there is a sector behind the PKK terrorism which doesn't want violence to end and that sector should also be taken into account for a resolution of the problem.

The intellectuals also stressed the need for constructive solutions, such as passing laws granting cultural and educational rights, taking measures against the village guard system in the region, and more democratization.