October 4, 2013
The curtain finally rises: PM Erdoğan announces the long awaited 'Democracy Package' (DERYA LAWRENCE 3 October 2013, Open Democracy)
Posted by Orrin Judd at October 4, 2013 6:58 PM[T]he protests that raged throughout the summer months across Turkey - reports state that protests were held in 79 cities out of 81 - were embraced by a multitude of identities encapsulating Alevis, Anti-Capitalist Muslims, Armenians, Kurds, Nationalists, Seculars and LGBT activists alike... [...]Undoubtedly, there will be those who find the package satisfactory. Deputy PM Bülent Arınç is of the opinion that '75%' of the population is satisfied. It must also be stated that any expansion of democratic avenues is a beneficial development and there are many provisions in the package that expand on democratic governance in areas of political rights and fundamental rights and freedoms.The amendment that lifts the ban on headscarves in all public institutions apart for the army, police and judiciary is a positive democratic reform. The creation of a cultural institute and language courses for Roma Communities is a very progressive step, even if it is only a beginning. The re-instatement of the Mor Gabriel Monastery to the Assyrian Community is another example of a positive step taken to safeguard the human rights of minorities.However, the BDP (Kurdish political party) have already stated that the democracy package is inadequate in terms of the expansion of rights and freedoms for Kurds. As far as they are concerned, the proposed changes are mere breadcrumbs and don't tackle root problems.Education in the mother tongue, reduced to private schools only, is not a large enough step forward, given that the AKP had already allowed for private language schools to teach Kurdish through legal amendments in 2002.More importantly, although part of the package allows villages, though not districts or provinces, to be re-named with their Kurdish names, and Kurds will be able to procure ID cards with more accurate spelling of their proper names, the ongoing insistence on a highly centralised political system turns a deaf ear to Kurdish demands for local governance. Essentially the centralist, controlling mindset of Turkish rule remains intact. And of course the largest shortcoming for the Kurdish cause has been the lack of reform of a Turkish Penal Code that has put thousands of Kurdish activists behind bars (the KCK trials).Similarly, through discussions on social network sites, it would appear that the sections of Turkish society who were active during the Gezi Demonstrations and who have also been calling for an expansion of individual rights and freedom, are equally dissatisfied.