17th Plenary Session of the Congress

Strasbourg, 14 October 2009

Speech by Mrs. Leyla Güven, Mayor of Viransehir, on the situation of local authorities in Southeast Anatolia (Turkey)

Dear Local Leaders and representatives,

Today, as a representative of citizens in my region I am proud of being here, and with being aware of responsibility of this representation I am greeting all of you!

I want to start my speech with the great wishes of Mr. Seyhmus Bayhan, the substitute member of the Congress of Local and  Regional Authorities, and the president of provincial council of Diyarbakir, who has been arrested during the systematic operations against DTP municipalities.

Dear Representatives,

There is a serious need of decentralization because of the structure of national state can not afford the demands and needs of society in all around the world.  Many states succeeded to solve their problems with introducing reforms; but in our country there is a big problem with changing. And unfortunately I need to say that;

The most important difficulties against the changing of centralist structure is the meaningless fear of separation. However, we can see a great social, economic and cultural development in countries whose government includes all ethnic diversities.  When the authority is given to the local, we see that the societies which discover how a person introduces its abilities and energy carry out a big development in all fields.

Turkey, thus, on one hand quicken its steps on the way of EU, on the other hand will fulfill European Charter of Local Self-Government that was signed with some reservations. As it is known, Turkey signed European Charter of Local Self-Government with some reservations, means not to be bound by some of its articles.  The main concerns in this regard are, not compromising on the centralized government model and not damaging the unity and integrity of Turkey. Undoubtedly, the not damaging of unity and integrity of Turkey is a concept that we also take possession and defend. But European Charter of Local Self-Government aims to serve the basic services in accordance with the demands and decision of the local Citizen, by the elected local leaders not to weaken the national unity form of the state but weaken centralist government concept.

Self-government is, a local societys doing local works with its own hand and having resources to provide this opportunity.  

In our opinion, for a good governance of society it is a need to have a synchronous transform quickly in two main fields. One of them is; the administrative reform of the state including also local government reforms, the second one is constitutional reform that will bring up democratic reform and provide internal peace. Thus the state will become an effective, efficient, contributional administrative device including language, religion, culture, identity and ethnic differences; have achieved domestic peace and takes quick steps through the development of humanity.

Unfortunately, the local government reform prepared each time in accordance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government and being called off because of Kurdish Question, another problem of Turkey. The matter bases upon Turkeys integrity when comes the end. Transferring of powers to the local governments will contribute positively not negatively on developing unity and integrity of state. Like EU countries that give good examples of living together, we will open a new worlds door that the identities, cultures, religions and languages will develop each other.

Kurdish question is the most important problem of turkey both in domestic field and in foreign policies. This problem also puts pressure on Turkey in international platforms. Anyway, we want Turkey to have a long standing solution for this problem and not to be put pressure on in international platforms.

In Turkey, the government has made an effort through the democratization of the state and has had serious studies since 2002. But these studies did not achieve the purpose of democratization because of the constitutional changes were not done.  For example in 2004 the draft bill of public reform vetoed by the president because of constitutional reasons and necessary constitutional changes were not done. The studies of a civil and democratic constitution were discontinued and now it is completely out of the agenda.

Recently we have parallel developments both hopeful and worrisome in our country.

          Anyhow, to search a solution for Kurdish question is now on the agenda of state as has never been before.  at the current stage, the Kurdish issue offers the possibility and opportunity for reconciliation and widespread agreement by all. In this regard, witnessing a promising solution process is now highly likely.

          Today, at this point, for the democratization of our country and accordingly for the solution of Kurdish issue, meetings were held with the academics, intellectuals, journalists and NGOs, a good faith declaration were made, it was stressed on necessity of the “democratic opening” by the meetings were held in every part of Turkey.

 In the elapsed previous three months, although a method of how and with which methods the problem will be solved did not occur, there is a good faith declaration for solving the problem.

Furthermore, during this process there were implementations at variance with good faith declaration.  Unfortunately, because of the conflict have not stopped the loss of lives continues.  Also the pressure on DTP continues because of the concrete steps of democratization were not taken. 

In this process; the mayors of the Municipalities of Southeastern Anatolia Region, the chairman of the provincial council, city council members were arrested. It is warring that the government is only watching these operations aganist our party which advocates democratic self-governance and decentalization.

Also, “Local self-government denotes the right and the ability of local authorities, within the limits of the law, to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility and in the interests of the local population.” article in the European Charter of Local Self-Government, is not implemented in Turkey and the needs of local people are not taken into consideration.

The obvious example of this implementation is the use of Kurdish language. In spite of a big part of the population in the East and Southeast of Anatolia speak in Kurdish and 20 million Kurdish people live in  Turkey, still Kurdish is forbidden and the most desperate thing is according to the TMBB records ( Turkish Grand National Assembly) Kurdish is undefined” language.

          On one hand, there is a television channel broadcasts 24 hours a day, on the other hand the cases and official investigations are opened against our local leaders due to they give Kurdish names to the streets, parks or any other things.  Yes, you can speak in Kurdish in your house but in hospital you can not. You can speak in Kurdish with your spouse but you can not give the names that contain q, w, x letters to your children.

It is inevitable to have an official investigation as a mayor when you send celebration cards in Kurdish in New Years Day to the public institutions but you are free to send it in English, Chinese and even in ancient languages.

The implementations we mentioned above have been done at the same time with the “democratic opening” and make us to look suspiciously to the opening.

Needless to say that the restrictions implemented against DTP municipalities are not limited only with language and culture.  Also our municipal services put down and the projects our municipalities want to implement in the East and Southeast Anatolia Cities which are at the end of socio-economic under-developed map,are rejected by state bureaucracy.

Including EU funds, As DTP Municipalities, our many project applications and the grants we demand can not pass over obstacle of DPT (State Planning Organization) and other institutions, the projects are not granted.   It is not understandable that Municipalities of East and Southeast Anatolia are obliged to applyfunds indirectly by the permition of Ankara when other municipalities can apply directly. 

Finally Iwant to say that; we, the DTP Municipalities in the East and Southeast, adopt the decentralization principle and support to solve the local problems with the local dynamics as mentioned in European Charter of Local Self-Government.

          For this reason we demand the re-regulation of Local Government Legislation, transferring more resources to the local and strengthening of local governments administratively and financially.  It is clear that centralist laws and solutions can not solve the local problems.  In direct contradiction, to form a democratic, participatory structuring from local to centre that contains human as an element and takes notice of what people want in real, requires.

          Thanks for your patience and studies on this subject,