The government launched its democratization initiative, also known as the national unity project, in order to solve Turkey’s decades-old Kurdish question. The coordinator of the initiative, Interior Minister Beşir Atalay, frequently stressed that they will facilitate the initiative by talking to and listening to all segments of society, but some civil society organizations in Diyarbakır point out this has not entirely been the case.
In a meeting organized by the Civil Society Development Center, representatives of several civil society organization in Diyarbakır spoke with representatives from national media outlets, including Today’s Zaman, about problems they face. Civil society organizations also met with Diyarbakır Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir. They planned to issue a joint declaration detailing difficulties they face. The declaration was not yet ready by the time Today’s Zaman went to the press.
Representatives of civil society organization underlined they were hopeful when the government’s democratization initiative was first proposed, but that this has turned into disappointment over time.
Levent Korkut from the Civil Society Development Center underlined that the success of the democratic initiative depends on the participation and support of civil society to the process. “It will be difficult for the democratization process to move on if dialogue and cooperation between civil society and the state is not ensured,” Korkut said.
Burhanettin Zoroğlu from the Human Rights Association’s (İHD) Diyarbakır branch said they face limited freedom of expression and freedom of association. He added that their chairman, Muharrem Erbey, was detained during a security operation.
Security forces last year launched operations into an organization called the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), allegedly the urban extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). During the operations, completed in several waves, many people, including mayors and pro-Kurdish politicians, were arrested. Erbey was one of them.
Nesip Yıldırım from the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) said democratization must be based on equality and rights and that any kind of bargaining over these issues is unacceptable. “There is a dialogue problem here; people are falling into arguments,” he said.
Another civil society organization underlining difficulties they face was Sarmaşık, a social support organization for people who live below the poverty line.