"If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost."
Altilim has a nice wrap up of Newroz festivities in Turkey. The headline reads: "Hundred thousands gave general Başbuğ an answer." In case you missed it, Ilker Basbug (Land Forces Commander--Buyukanit's old position and traditionally the position for those Paşas who go on to become the Paşa of Paşas, the Shining Sun Around Which the Turkish Universe Revolves, the Turkish Chief of General Staff) was in Diyarbakir two weeks ago doing his math. Unfortunately, Basbug's math doesn't add up for a number of reasons.
Hundred thousands gathering at the Newroz rally in Diyarbakir celebrated their feast despite all repression. In Amed, the Kurdish name for the capital of Kurdistan, where general Başbuğ had blared out threats to the people before, Newroz turned into a glamorous celebration. Although a working day, life in the city stopped in the morning and the people entered the place of the rally, called Fuar Alanı.
The rally, in which more than 500.000 people took part, started with Ahmet Türk, Leyla Zana, Osman Baydemir and Musa Farisoğulları, administrative chairman of DTP of Amed, lighting the fire for Newroz.
Despite all threats, a huge poster with the founders of the PKK, such as Kemal Pir, M. Hayri Durmuş, Mazlum Doğan and Abdullah Öcalan and the martyr Zeynep Kınacı was hung up, flags of the confederalism and Öcalan posters were carried. The provocative behaviour of the police, which lasted during the whole rally, later turned into an attack in fact, when the masses were about to disperse. 80 people were arrested in clashes with the police.
Aysel Tugluk had a Newroz message for Ankara (as well as the US and EU):
The leader of Turkey's main pro- Kurdish party warned that the arrest of top party officials during the past month may rekindle separatist violence that has led to thousands of deaths in the past two decades.
The crackdown could also cost Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party holds a majority of parliamentary seats in the largely Kurdish southeast, support in elections later this year.
"If our party, which is committed to a peaceful resolution, is unable to function, it says to Kurds that the political arena is shut to them,'' said Aysel Tugluk, co-chairman of the Democratic Society Party or DTP. That may lead Kurdish guerrillas to call off their seven-month unilateral truce as they "assess how effective this cease-fire has been,'' she added.
Read the rest at Bloomberg.
In the spirit of Ms. Tugluk's message, here's a letter from Amed (Diyarbakir) Mayor Osman Baydemir on the controversial possible dismissal of Sur Municipality Mayor Abdullah Demirbas and the dissolution of the Sur Municipal Council, courtesy of the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign (all emphasis mine):
Diyarbakir, March 14 2007
President, USAM and
Mayor, Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality
Subject: Possible Dismissal of the Sur Mayor and the Municipal Council
Dear Chief Executive,
The Southeast Anatolia Region is one of the two socio-economically most underdeveloped regions of Turkey, which are heavily populated by Kurdish citizens. Population of the cities such as Diyarbakir and Batman has almost tripled due to the protracted situation of conflict related to the Kurdish problem, and urban life and services in most of the provinces located in the region have been paralyzed. Of course, municipalities located in other regions of Turkey as well are grappling with countless problems in delivering services and contributing to Turkey's democratization process. However, becomes most clear in the East and Southeast Anatolia Regions which have a different cultural life. Municipalities located in these regions have been experiencing heavy tutelage of the central government in most of their activities. In the current context, most people in the region, Turkey's excessively centralist governmental structuremost of whom do not have political representation in the national parliament due to the 10% national election bar, can express their democratic demands and participate in decision-making processes in and through the municipalities. However, the legal and administrative pressures over the municipalities in the region have recently increased significantly. Especially the municipalities who are members of the Democratic Society Party have been subjected to countless investigations, court cases and penalties. As basic constituent elements of local democracy of the region, our municipalities have been put into a dysfunctional situation due to such practices of the central government.
Local governments, particularly the municipalites, are undoubtedly one of the most important channels of a country's democratic life. Fair and good governance requires the inclusion of local demands into the decision-making processes. Due to the national legislation, most municipalities in the region cannot meet the cultural needs of the local people and deliver services in languages other than Turkish. Our municipalities have been receiving demands from the local people concerning the delivery of cultural and awareness building services both in Turkish and in languages other than Turkish. Thus, our Sur Municipality, a district municipality related to Diyarbakir, has been conducting preparatory activities for a while toward this end with a decision taken by the Municipal Council. However, the Ministry of Interior appealed to the State Council to dismiss the Sur Mayor Mr. Abdullah Demirbas and dissolve the Municipal Council on the pretext that Mr. Demirbas and the Municipal Council exceeded the bounds and limits of their duties and authorities and violated the 3rd and 42nd articles of the Constitution.
The attached report was written in order to enable you have an idea about this unfortunate situation that the Sur Municipality is encountering. This approach of the Ministry of Interior to the Sur Mayor and Municipal Council who have acted with a perspective of participatory democracy to meet local demands is an example of the intolerance on the part of the central government toward local democracy and cultural rights. Dismissal of the Sur Mayor and dissolution of the Municipal Council would certainly mean an unacceptable action that would heavily damage local democracy, cultural rights and the relations of confidence between the state and citizens of the region.
We hereby submit this situation of our Sur Municipality to your high attention, evaluation and observation.
Ps. Please also see the attached “Report on Local Government and Local Democracy Dynamics Concerning the DTP Municipalities in Turkey” prepared by the Democratic Society Party Local Governments Commission to learn more about the pressures on DTP municipalities in Turkey.
Mr. Ulrich BOHNER
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
Council of Europe
cc: Mr. H SKARD, President of the Congress
Directorate General of Local Authorities, Ministry of Interior, Turkey
Union of Municipalities in Turkey
Stay tuned for more from the capital of Kurdistan.