The Establishment of a Truth Commission in Turkey
Cemil Bayik, The Executive Council Member of the People’s Union of Kurdistan (KCK)
The establishment of a Truth Commission is currently on the agenda in Turkey. Various groups and individuals involved in the protection of human rights and democracy are proposing such a step. Such a proposal has even come before parliament in Turkey. But unfortunately the progress of these proposals has been blocked by the ruling Islamic AK party (AKP).Calls from the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan for the establishment of a Truth Commission have been presented to the public opinion. Mr Ocalan has often called for the establishment of such a commission and has undertaken to do whatever he can to support it. If such a commission is indeed established it will be an historic development and a significant step for Turkey’s future. But will Turkey take this step? Despite all the work that has been done on this issue the answer to that question so far seems negative. Many obstacles remain to establishing a Truth Commission in Turkey; otherwise the prevailing public will and political atmosphere would have ensured its establishment by now. Yet so far there have been no concrete steps taken.
Why so? The answer to that cannot be understood without taking into account those who are actively blocking concrete progress on the establishment of any commission of truth and research.
When Mr Ocalan highlighted the necessity of establishing such a commission he pointed out certain important points. These measures will play a major role in the democratic solution of the Kurdish question. Now it seems that the democratic solution of the Kurdish question has been lifted off the agenda and yet no progress has been made on this matter. It looks like the proposal has been blocked. This point must be examined.
A significant question is whether those who appear to have blocked the establishment of a Truth Commission in Turkey have something to fear from the truth. In January initiatives like the Civil Platform and others highlighted the views of victims of the so-called "Unknown Perpetrators" - although in truth the perpetrators are widely known. The views and activities of people who want to participate in such initiatives are very important. These platforms were not established on ethnic or ideological grounds, but included both Kurds and Turks from diverse political backgrounds. Yet the central point on which all were united was the need to establish the truth.
Does the ruling AKP block the establishment of a Truth Commission because they fear facing the truth and in fact want those dark events, which are firmly rooted in the consciousness of the people, to be forgotten? This point must be fully understood.
It is not the first time that dark events have come onto the agenda in Turkey. In this current phase nobody will be duped any longer. The truth about events that took place must be brought to light.
From the murder of Mustafa Suphi* and his fourteen comrades who were drowned in the Black Sea, and right from the foundation of the Turkish Republic and throughout the history of the state, the truth behind such dark events has not been revealed. Similarly events surrounding the Kurdish uprising of 1925 and the murder of Sebahattin Ali**, the provocation of 6-7 September, and the increasing number of “dark murders” in the1960s which prepared the way for the atrocities and massacres of the 1970s have yet to be publicly examined. Such dark events continued in the 1990s and many people have been killed. Up until now this has not been examined, researched or explained.
In the nineties, which we call the blood-soaked decade, thousands of villages were evacuated and millions of people were uprooted from their homeland and sent into exile. Tens of thousands of people were arrested and suffered torture. According to official figures 17 thousand people were murdered. Among those arrested and “disappeared” there were many intellectuals and community leaders. The President of the Republic and military commanders died under mysterious circumstances or were murdered. Such things as happened here could not have occurred anywhere else in the world. For these reasons the establishment of a Truth Commission is a vital step forward for the future for Turkey. We must open a clean sheet in the country’s history and take concrete steps so that the dark events that took place may be brought to light. Then steps must be taken so that those responsible will be brought to account.
It is clear that the AKP government is afraid of what a Truth Commission may uncover and it is therefore blocking progress. Former police chief Mehmet Agar, who was Minister of the Interior during the blood-soaked nineties, made an interesting observation at the funeral ceremonies of Ugur Mumcu*** who was murdered in 1993. He said, "if we pull one block out of the wall, then the wall will collapse, and we will all be buried beneath it".
The fundamental reason why they are afraid to establish a Truth Commission in Turkey is that they know, like Mehmet Agar, that they will also be buried beneath it.
*Mustafa Suphi: founder of the Communist Party of Turkey. Assassinated with 14 comrades in 1921.
**Sabahattin Ali: writer and critical intellectual. Assassinated while fleeing Turkey on 2 April 1948.
***Ugur Mumcu: newspaper columnist. Assassinated by car bomb on 24 January 1993.