In besieged North Kurdistan, DTK renews call for democratic autonomy

Kurdish movement demands self-government as a way out of current conflict · Turkish army puts Kurdish cities under siege, blockade

DTK assembly in Amed.
DTK assembly in Amed. Author: Firat News
Turkey should accept that North Kurdistan organizes itself into several democratic and autonomous regions as a way of resolving the Kurdish-Turkish conflict. This is the main proposal put forward by the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) assembly, held over the weekend in North Kurdish capital Amed (Diyarbakir).

The DTK, an umbrella group that brings together hundreds of civil society organizations and local councils, as well as representatives of Kurdish parties, is thus demanding again that its flag proposal on the political organization of North Kurdistan -outlined for the first time in 2011 and based on ideas by jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan- is taken into account.

According to the document released yesterday, the DTK demands the recognition of other official languages besides Turkish and the implementation of a mixed-gender co-decision system in all representative and executive bodies. Furthermore, the DTK wants the proposed autonomous regions to be devolved powers on education, health, empowerment of women, energy, natural resources, economy and taxation. All this should be implemented, the DTK argues, within the framework of a new, democratic Turkey.

Constant denial from the Turkish government

DTK proposals have been systematically rejected by the Turkish government from the very first moment in which they were unveiled four years ago. Ankara believes the democratic autonomy proposal is nothing but a disguised attempt to break the unity of the Republic of Turkey.

In 2013, current president and then Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan made some concessions, such as allowing the teaching of Kurdish in private schools, or opening the door to restoring traditional Kurdish place names that have been replaced by Turkish ones.

But the concessions fell well below the minimum threshold acceptable to the Kurdish movement, which calls for more specific and far-reaching measures from the Turkish government.

For the last years, Ankara has been negotiating with Öcalan to find a way out of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. Periods of relative calm have been alternating with months of intense violence. This is the case at present. Since July 2015 North Kurdistan has witnessed a reignited conflict between the Turkish military on the one side, and PKK members and their local allies on the other. Since then, violence has claimed the lives of at least 200 Turkish soldiers and thousands of Kurdish rebels.

For weeks, several Kurdish cities -such as Amed's Sur, Nisêbin and Cizre- have been enduring the siege and blockade by the Turkish army, which has left hundreds dead. Parts of those cities are controlled by the YDG-H -a youth, urban militia linked to the PKK.

Erdogan last week vowed to "bury" the Kurdish rebels "in the trenches that they themselves have built."