YUVARLAK MASA TOPLANTISI NOTLARI
ROUNDTABLE MEETING NOTES
Prepared by: E. İrem AKI
Translated by: Meral Camcı
This text has been prepared in order to share the results of the NETWORKS OF PEACE roundtable meeting held on Off-University's online platform on April 28, 2023 with the public. Atalay Göçer from the Cultural Research Center for Peace (bakad), Hakan Tahmaz from the Peace Foundation, Ferda Fahrioğlu Akın from the Research Association for Democracy, Peace and Alternative Politics (DEMOS Research Association), Derya Çok from the Diyarbakır Social and Political Research Institute (DISA) and Berfin Coşkun from the Young Peace Builders Association attended. The main topics discussed at the meeting are the concept of peace, the May 2023 parliamentary elections and the Presidential elections, the contribution of non-governmental organizations working in the field of peace to peacebuilding, and communication and solidarity networks built between them. In this context, the prominent opinions and policy recommendations at the meeting are as follows:
Contemplating on the question of “What is Peace?”
At the meeting, the importance of considering an intersectional perspective in peace studies or peacebuilding was emphasized. Atalay Göçer and Berfin Coşkun emphasized that the conflict experienced by an LGBTI+, or a young Kurdish woman, or the middle-aged upper generation or economically stronger men, or the disabled differs, and that as many different experiences as possible should be brought to the peace table. In this respect, according to Atalay Göçer, we can define peace as “the establishment of a common life by those who do not have a common denominator”. A state of peace is also related to a state of well-being. Peace is also about taking care of our own well-being and the well-being of those around us, and a process for how to establish it. However, of course, peace is also about ending an existing conflict situation. However, a lasting and sustainable peace can be achieved not only with negative peace, which means the end of conflicts, but also with the elimination of inequalities and social justice, based on Johan Galtung, with a positive understanding of peace. Another point that Göçer emphasizes is the relationship between peace and understanding each other. More specifically, peacebuilding is also about understanding each other, listening and caring for our needs and creating safe spaces for all.
Unfortunately, in Turkey, we witness the marginalization and criminalization of those who demand peace as well as the demand for peace itself. As Berfin Coşkun emphasized, on the other hand, we are also faced with the romanticization of peace. To put it more clearly, there is a perception that the two sides will make peace with each other and then all the problems in the society will be resolved. According to Coşkun, such a perspective makes the post-peace-building process more fragile and harms the sustainability of peace. In fact, the importance and sensitivity of the post-peace-building process is overlooked.
“PEACE” IN ELECTION DECLARATIONS: HOW CLOSE AND HOW FAR IS TURKEY TO PEACE?
When we look at the May 14, 2023 elections and the discourses of the alliances, we cannot see an approach that covers all vulnerable groups. For example, when we look at the parliamentary candidate lists in terms of LGBTI+ representation, we unfortunately do not see any other than the candidates of the Greens and the Left Future Party (Green Left Party) and the Workers’ Party of Turkey (WPoT). Aysima Mihriban Mehtap Arslan, one of the MP candidates of the Green Left Party, continues to work for the Antepqueer Association and was nominated from the 9th rank order on the list. Trans woman activist and actress Zeynep Esmeray Özadikti is the 3rd rank order MP candidate from the WpoT, İstanbul 2nd voting district. The WpoT’s two transgender women candidates were also on the lists. Accordingly, Talya Aydın was nominated from the 18th rank order from İstanbul, 2nd voting district, and Niler Albayrak from the 11th rank order from İstanbul, 3rd voting district. Atalay Göçer emphasized that we should also think about how the LGBTI+ representation should be. To put it more clearly, instead of following the showcase politics by showing the LGBTI+ candidate from an eligible rank and district, it should also be taken into account how much the party internalizes peace in principle and whether it produces a policy that includes vulnerable groups.
Other groups that come to mind when it comes to showcase politics are youth and women, in addition to LGBTI+s. Ferda Fahrioğlu Akın also stated that we should consider that representation has been transformed into a showcase policy for all political parties. For example, despite the fact that there is an eighteen-year-old candidate of the Justice and Development Party (JDP), it is doubtful how well the young people can express their demands. According to Berfin Coşkun, what is important is not to fill the quotas or to nominate young people from ranks and districts where they can be elected. The important thing here is to change the discourse and understanding:
“Young people have an incredible distrust towards existing political institutions and actors, and this is seen as apolitical by the senior generation. However, this is not the case. The communication of politics not only with the youth but also directly with the public is from above. Unfortunately, young people cannot be reached without changing this general discourse, simply by changing the tools. This attitude does not meet the demands of young people. But today, even if 60-70% of the politicians were young, I am not sure if much would change, because that language, that discourse needs to be rejuvenated. Also, although we have much more space to encounter the “other” than our own senior generation, we have difficulty interacting with each other due to the polarizing language of politics. The atmosphere of paranoia created also limits interaction between young people. Therefore, young people cannot express their own demands. Civil society has a great role to play both in rejuvenating the political language and in enabling young people from different backgrounds to express themselves safely in these encounter areas.”
Therefore, having quotas is crucial for the representation of vulnerable groups, but it is not sufficient on its own. According to Ferda Fahrioğlu Akın, showcase politics is also in question for women, and although there are quotas and the co-presidency system, we can see that established gender roles continue in intra-party relations and in the field of politics.
Another point emphasized at the meeting is that the issue of representation is problematic not only in the government but also in the opposition. In this respect, if we envision a post-election peace process, we should be able to criticize all political parties that engage in this kind of politics.
In this context, the fact that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) did not make any statement on the violence that took place during the Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır was another subject of criticism. LGBTI+s were exposed to violence by an organized group as soon as they raised the rainbow flag in the field of Newroz. No statement was received from the action committee. Only the PDP Women’s Assembly has published a text. Therefore, if we are talking about a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, it must be carried out in a way that includes all kinds of sexual orientation and gender identity. At this point, both civil society and political actors have a great responsibility.
To which extent the alliances included the discourse of peace and Kurdish issue in their declarations was another topic of discussion. Among the five alliances that participated in the elections (Labor and Freedom Alliance, People’s Alliance, Nation Alliance, Ata Alliance and Union of Socialist Forces Alliance), openly touched upon peace and the Kurdish issue is only the Labor and Freedom Alliance. As Hakan Tahmaz emphasized, the political parties within the Labor and Freedom Alliance have a will for a solution and a roadmap to solve the Kurdish question. According to Tahmaz, the People’s Alliance and the Ata Alliance derive their very own existences from war and conflict; On the other hand, the Union of Socialist Forces Alliance does not mention the Kurdish issue in any of its texts. Considering the policies of these three alliances, we can state that a difficult process awaits us, those who demand peace, after the election, regardless of the outcome of it.
There is no roadmap on how to solve the Kurdish issue in the Joint Policies Memorandum of Understanding of the Nation Alliance. Even the word Kurd is not mentioned in the text. However, as Tahmaz stated, “The Nation Alliance has some determinations and promises related to a process that can open the door to a solution, not directly to the solution of the Kurdish issue. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, as the opposition leader and presidential candidate, has a discourse, attitude and approach that, albeit on a rhetorical level, reassures or comforts hearts that differ from central politics, and raises hope.” According to Tahmaz, “developments such as the statement in the Joint Policies Memorandum of Understanding that the trustees and party closures will come to an end, and Kılıçdaroğlu’s statement that the solution place for the Kurdish issue is the parliament are promising and should be taken seriously.”
In this direction, another issue discussed at the meeting was Kılıçdaroğlu's call to ask/give blessings.  It was emphasized that Kılıçdaroğlu's rhetoric of asking/giving blessings is not enough on its own and should be deepened. When Kılıçdaroğlu first articulated this concept, although it was not used in peacebuilding and transitional justice studies, it was welcomed and 37 non-governmental organizations made a statement on the subject.:
“Although we approach the concept of asking/giving blessings with caution, we are aware of the importance of keeping this discussion area active on social reconciliation. No matter what we call it, whether to call it as asking/giving blessings or facing the past, we expect the steps to be taken in this direction to serve lasting peace. That's why we remind you that the victims and civil society should fill in the concept. As non-governmental organizations, professional organizations and initiatives operating in these fields, we aspire to build and carry out every process that will be carried out on the basis of truth, justice and equality.”
Ferda Fahrioğlu Akın stated that it was disappointing that there was no response from the opposition to this call from non-governmental organizations.
Another point emphasized is that economic problems preceded the demand for peace in the election process. In fact, not only during the election period, but since the end of the 2013-2015 resolution process, as Hakan Tahmaz pointed out, peace has not been on the agenda of politics and civil society. Few people have made peace on the agenda since then. Of course, the criminalization of the demand for peace or the political pressure created against the demand for peace also play a role. However, Turkey's political and economic crisis has been the primary agenda of everyone and has caused the discussion of peace or the Kurdish issue to be put aside. In addition, it was emphasized that economic problems or economic injustice are also indispensable components to be discussed for the construction of a peaceful society, but this should be taken into account from a holistic perspective.
Another issue on the election agenda is that the opposition (including the Labor and Freedom Alliance) supports Kılıçdaroğlu through the opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and JDP. Moreover, the support from the grassroots is in this direction. Despite the fact that the Nation Alliance’s perspective on the Kurdish issue is inadequate and even inconsistent within itself, this support still continues.
Finally, it was also mentioned that the opposition, especially Kılıçdaroğlu, remained silent despite the detention of nearly 150 people (including lawyers, journalists, civil society workers and Kurdish activists)  in the operation carried out in 21 provinces based in Diyarbakır. According to Hakan Tahmaz, “this silence also points out to a pessimism and lack of confidence problem regarding the upcoming days”. Tahmaz stated that in this respect, civil society should have a stimulating function, and that we cannot encourage peace, encourage the society, and excite others under conditions where we refrain from holding the hand of all marginalized people.
CIVIL SOCIETY AND PEACE BUILDING
How the communication and solidarity between non-governmental organizations working on peace and transitional justice should be was another topic that was discussed upon at the meeting. In this context, it was emphasized that non-governmental organizations working on peace and transitional justice should come together and exchange information, and more meetings such as PEACE NETWORKS in this regard should be organized.
It was underlined that non-governmental organizations working in peacebuilding in Turkey are doing very well, such as bringing world experiences into Turkish, but the relationship between them is limited and there should be a more effective communication.
The role of civil society in peacebuilding was another topic of discussion. Accordingly, the questions of what can be done as the civil society and what we can do as the components of the civil society were discussed. Hakan Tahmaz emphasized that “there is a possibility of hope for us in the upcoming period, and in this process, as the civil society, it is important to force the door to the solution of the Kurdish issue to be opened to the end”.
According to Tahmaz, if the upcoming period is promising, if it develops in a way that gives us hope, the Parliament will be an important actor in the resolution process. It is necessary to be aware that no solution process will proceed in the direction of the will of the leaders of the two parties. It was also emphasized that all sides of the conflict should be taken into account. It was pointed out that on the eve of the 14 May elections, it was not sincere that political actors, especially the Nation Alliance, tried to criminalize the 2013-2015 resolution process on the one hand, and talked about a peace or politics that included everyone, on the other.
Ferda Fahrioğlu Akın emphasized that the role of civil society is very important in peacebuilding and that as civil society, it is necessary to continue to report violations until peace comes to this country. Fahrioğlu Akın also stated that civil society should include more lobbying activities on its agenda. She said that although the word lobbying might sound bad at first glance, what really should be done is here to put pressure on decision makers or legislators to put peace building on their agenda, like shadow reports submitted to the European Commission.
In the above-mentioned problem of representation, it was stated that ensuring the representation of women, LGBTI+s, young people and people with disabilities or ensuring a change in understanding and policy beyond the showcase politics should be on the agenda of civil society.
The role of civil society in times of crisis was another topic discussed at the meeting. Atalay Göçer criticized that while civil society focuses on the needs in times of crisis, it acts according to the demands of heterosexual and robust cis-men. For example, after the 6 February earthquake, the civil society working around Diyarbakır stated the needs of cis-heterosexual men as well as diapers and menstrual pads, while ignoring the needs of people outside these classifications; did not take into account the needs of diabetics, celiac patients, LGBTI+s.
At the meeting, there was also a discussion on whether the post-election process could open the door to a post-JDP period (afterwards the Justice and Development Party rule). In such a case, it has been emphasized that how the human rights violations experienced during the last 20-year-JDP rule will be handled and what kind of transitional justice mechanisms will be built are separate issues. In this framework, while emphasizing the role of non-governmental organizations working on peacebuilding, conflict resolution and transitional justice in the construction of mechanisms to come to terms with the past in a possible post-JDP period, it was also stated that transitional justice mechanisms should be survivor/victim centered in this possible post-JDP period.
Finally, Hakan Tahmaz shared experience on when civil society should start working on the election process. Accordingly, he stated that during the election period, because the work agenda for the election is very busy and the parties do not want to hear the words other than their own and the words of their opponents, as soon as the election comes to the agenda but the electoral process is not fully begun yet, election-oriented studies and meetings should be held. The Peace Foundation also held two separate meetings in November 2022 on what they should do about peace and conflict resolution in the 2023 elections, to which approximately fifteen academicians, peace activists and writers were invited. In January 2023, they announced the 2023 Elections Attitude Document and called on “all political parties and organizations and all citizens to take responsibility in every aspect of a social peace campaign during and after the upcoming election process and to wisely evaluate this opportunity”.
 İlker Hepkaner, Velvele Seçim Bülteni #4, https://velvele.net/2023/04/16/velvele-secim-bulteni-4/, date of access: May 08, 2023.
 PDP Istanbul deputy Züleyha Gülüm also made a statement on her Twitter account condemning the attack: “We do not accept the ‘violent attack’ against LGBTI+s. No group can turn the Newroz area into a tool of hate speech and action, where millions of people stand side by side, advocating for a life where 'everyone enjoys peace and everyone has equal rights”.https://twitter.com/zuleyhagulum/status/1638471382718619649?s=20, date of access: May 08, 2023.
 For the call for asking/giving blessings, see: Yeşim Yaprak Yıldız, “Türkiye’de Geçmişle Yüzleşme Tartışması: Helalleşme Çağrısı Ne İfade Ediyor?”, DEMOS Blog, December 20, 2022, https://demos.org.tr/helallesme-cagrisi-ne-ifade-ediyor/; Ferda Fahrioğlu Akın, “Helalleşme Sürecinin Aktörleri Kimler Olmalıdır?”, DEMOS Blog, May 30, 2022, https://demos.org.tr/helallesme-surecinin-aktorleri-kimler-olmalidir/; Güneş Daşlı, “Helalleşmeyi Uzlaşma ve Geçiş Dönemi Adaleti Bağlamında Nasıl Tartışabiliriz?”, DEMOS Blog, December 19, 2021, https://demos.org.tr/helallesmeyi-uzlasma-ve-gecis-donemi-adaleti-baglaminda-nasil-tartisabiliriz/ ; Osman Kavala, “Helalleşme Nereye Varır?”, T24, https://t24.com.tr/yazarlar/osman-kavala/helallesme-nereye-varir, 3974627 April 2023, date of access: May 08, 2023.
 https://artigercek.com/guncel/diyarbakirda-gazeteci-siyasetci-ve-hukukculara-operasyon-150nin-uzerinde-kisi-247397h, date of access: May 08, 2023.
 On this topic, see: Atalay Göçer, Deprem Sonrası Geçici Barınma Mekanları, Diyarbakır’da Depremden Hayatta Kalan LGBTİ+’lar, Barış için Kültürel Araştırmalar Derneği (bakad), Keskesor Amed LGBTİ+ Oluşumu, March 07, 2023.
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