An Exclusive Interview with Ms. Sebahat Tuncel, Kurdish MP of Turkey’s Parliament and Istanbul Deputy for the Democratic Society Party (DTP)
Kurdish Herald Vol. 1 Issue 2, June 2009 - Interview conducted by Servet Tosun and Natsumi Ajiki for Kurdish Herald at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara.
Ankara, Turkey – Kurdish Herald recently had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Sebahat Tuncel, a Kurdish member of Turkey’s parliament and Istanbul Deputy for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), for an exclusive interview regarding topics that included the Kurdish question and the electoral success of her party in the recent nationwide local elections. Ms. Tuncel is the official foreign affairs representative for the DTP. In 2006, she was imprisoned on charges of a crime against the unity of the state. She was released in 2007 through parliamentarian immunity after winning a seat in Istanbul and became the first person in Turkey’s history to be elected from prison.
Kurdish Herald: How would you characterize the reaction of the Turkish government and military to the DTP’s recent successes in the March 2009 Turkish municipal elections?
Ms. Sebahat Tuncel, Kurdish MP in Turkey's parliament
Sebahat Tuncel: The [Turkish] state employed all its branch and organs with the expectation of defeating DTP in the Kurdish region in the March 2009 elections. Different groups, such as soldiers, governors, even some members of the other Turkish parties, worked with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) aiming to meet this expectation. All of these actors worked very hard against DTP. For instance, they gave free food, donated laundry machines, and gave money to people. It was important for the AKP to win the Kurdish provinces. If they succeeded, the Turkish government could tell everyone (inside Turkey and throughout the world) that AKP represents the Kurds, and the Kurds do not have the problems and grievances that DTP always brings to the table.
Kurdish Herald: Is there any group in particular in the Turkish government that you think is a dependable partner for dialogue in seeking some solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey?
Sebahat Tuncel: More discussions took place after the March 29th elections. President Abdullah Gül had some statements on this issue. He stated that “there will be good things,” and “there is an immediate need for the solution for the Kurdish problem.” However, he has not explained what the solution would be like. This lack of clarity persists.
Kurdish Herald: What is the status of recent court cases pending against you and other DTP parliamentarians? Who is behind allegations against you and your colleagues? And to what extent do these court cases interfere with your work as a parliamentarian?
Sebahat Tuncel: Cases attempting to close the DTP continue. It is like the Sword of Damocles on our neck – the Turkish state has continuously been trying to suppress us by using these cases.
Kurdish Herald: What role is the DTP currently playing in the organization of a pan-Kurdish conference in Erbil, and what would its aims be?
Sebahat Tuncel: There has been a long discussion over this conference in Turkey, with a plan to disqualify the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) from the conference. Nevertheless, the March 2009 elections dismissed such plans. We hoped that that this conference would highlight the unity of the Kurds and call for a project for the freedom and democratization of the countries where Kurds live.
Kurdish Herald: As the foreign affairs representative of the DTP, how do you see Turkey’s relationships with Iraq’s central government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) developing?
Sebahat Tuncel: I think that the Turkey-KRG relationship is very important both in terms of politics and commercial relations. On the other hand, we would not accept any type of relationship that would adversely affect reaching a solution for the Kurdish question in Turkey. In this relationship, we expect that both sides take consideration for the interests of the Kurds in Turkey as well.
Sebahat Tuncel: We, the DTP, are a determined supporter of the European Union membership process of Turkey because social and political reforms and changes in Turkey have not occurred easily and the implementation of reforms for the membership of the EU may help bring about positive change in Turkey. As it is known, Turkey is still administrated by a military coup Constitution. For instance, there is a law, the Law of Struggle Against Terror and it has been affecting the lives of all the Kurds, young and old alike. With the membership of the EU, this law can be reformed. Today, there are many Kurdish children are standing trial, facing a possible 25 year prison sentence, because they threw stones at Turkish police. There are almost 3,000 children who are standing trial for such accusations.