The survey was conducted on more than 10,000 residents in 19 cities, including Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa, Malatya, Mardin, Van, Kahramanmaraş, Muş, Adıyaman, Batman, Elazığ, Ağrı, Erzurum, Bitlis, Siirt, Bingöl, Tunceli, Mersin and İstanbul. Almost 82 percent of respondents of Kurdish origin expressed their willingness to live together with the Turkish population of the country, citing their belief in the same religion, belonging to the same religious sect, possessing a common culture and marriage between Turks and Kurds as reasons for their keenness to live together with Turks.
The BİLGESAM survey preceded the government's announcement for a planned democratization package through which it seeks to settle years-old problems, including the Kurdish one. Though officially not yet announced, the government wants to solve the Kurdish question through giving more political and cultural rights to its Kurds.
Turkey's Kurdish question existed since the very first years of the republic, but it turned violent in 1984 when Kurdish separatists organized under a terrorist group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Armed conflicts between PKK terrorists and Turkish security forces have resulted in the deaths of more than 40,000 people.
Asked about possible solutions to the Kurdish question, Kurdish respondents pointed to higher standards of education in their region, economic investment, more employment opportunities, broader cultural rights, strengthening of local administrations, a decrease in the birth rate among Kurds and Turkey's membership in the European Union. However, they were cold to the idea of an independent homeland for Kurds in Turkey. More than 90 percent of respondents said independence would not be a remedy to Kurds' problems.
Kurdish respondents were also polled about the role of the PKK and its jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, on Kurds' view of the Kurdish question. Only slightly more than 21 percent said the PKK and Öcalan had an important role.
Less than 20 percent said Öcalan, who is currently serving a life sentence on an island prison off the coast of İstanbul, should be freed. More than 55 percent said Öcalan was used by “foreign powers.”
More than 56 percent of participants in the survey who were living in cities largely hit by acts of terror said they trusted the state, while around 50 percent expressed confidence in security forces. These figures were even higher in cities not much affected by acts of terror. A similar inverse proportion existed, confident in the PKK and Öcalan. While around 20 percent of residents of cities largely hit by acts of terror expressed confidence in the PKK and Öcalan, this figure dropped to less than 6 percent in cities not much affected by terror.
According to participants, Turkey's main problems, in order of seriousness, are unemployment, poor quality of education, terrorism, the Kurdish question, injustice in the judiciary, poor quality of health services, low standards of democracy and human rights and ethnic discrimination. The survey was conducted in 19 cities across Turkey between Oct. 1, 2008 and Feb. 28, 2009.