Analysts: BDP’s regional revenue demand means autonomy

The demand by a leading Kurdish political figure that Kurds should get a share of the income derived from natural resources in Turkey’s Southeast translates into a demand that was immediately rejected by Turkey’s top energy official for recognition of sovereignty similar to the Kurds’ position in northern Iraq, analysts have said.

“This is part of the demand [by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)] for autonomy. This means recognition [by Turkey] of a second sovereignty [outside that of the Turkish state],” Mumtazer Turkone, a political scientist from Fatih University, told Today’s Zaman.

In an interview published by the Al Jazeera Turk news portal on Saturday, Gultan Kışanak, a former co-chair of the BDP and current mayor of Diyarbakır province, said they, as the municipality of Diyarbakır, wanted a share of the natural resources of the province.

In response to a question about whether they demanded a share from the oil produced in the province, Kışanak said: “Of course, we certainly demand a share. Municipalities should get a share from all the energy resources, from the wealth under and above the ground, and economic riches in the region.”

Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız said, in a statement on Saturday, that it would not be possible to comply with such a demand if it would come to mean recognition, though tacitly, of another state within Turkey.

“If what is demanded is that which is [normally] given to a state, apart from [what Turkey gets as] its right [from exploitation of natural resources], that is not possible,” Yıldız said, adding: “That’s not on our agenda.”

The pro-Kurdish BDP has long been asking for autonomy, and, in a less emphatic way, for a regional Kurdish parliament in Diyarbakır, a city that is the political center of the Kurdish opposition in Turkey. Shortly before the recent local elections, Kışanak said: “The will that is expressed through the ballot box in these elections will announce the freedom of the Kurdish people, our self-rule.” The demand for autonomy is causing concern in the Turkish public due to fears that such a move might well pave the way to secession.

Saying that they are working on the feasibility of the municipality getting a share of the riches of the region, Kışanak said in the interview: “Our colleagues have been preparing a file [on this issue]. How many oil fields are there in Diyarbakır? What is the amount of production [in oil]? Where is this oil going? In the past, there was a heavy cost [of oil in the region] in terms of environment; we are looking into it. There were serious claims that it [oil production] caused pollution in water wells. Oil is the powerhouse of economy, but the energy is going there [to the Western part of the country], and we are left with the pollution. … This is not acceptable for anybody.”

Eighty to 85 percent of Turkey’s domestic investments in natural gas and oil take place in the country’s southeast region. Drawing attention to this fact, the minister of energy said the yearly amount of investment Turkey makes in this area in the region is as high as $470 million. Noting that Turkish government does not act in a discriminative way against any provinces in the whole of the country, Yıldız said energy investments in the region provide employment for about 3,000 people.

Like Turkone of Fatih University, Atilla Sandıklı, president of the Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies (BİLGESAM), thinks that Kışanak’s discourse sounds as if the BDP’s Diyarbakır mayor is after recognition by Turkey of a certain right to sovereignty by Kurds. “Her [Kışanak’s] discourse makes one think that she is after a system that is similar to the one in northern Iraq,” Sandıklı told Today’s Zaman.

In Iraq – in the north of which the Kurds have an autonomous state — the Kurds are entitled, by the constitution, to receive 17 percent of the federal budget based on the proportion of their population to the overall population of the country. “Kışanak seems to be seeking an autonomous structure [for Kurds], as the BDP had voiced prior to the local elections,” Sandıklı said.

The Turkish government launched a settlement process at the end of 2012 to solve once and for all the country’s Kurdish issue and terrorism problem, with Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) with which the BDP is closely connected. Although Ocalan’s demands for the process to be successful are, as far as publicly known, more moderate, autonomy as a target has been publicly stated on numerous occasions by leading representatives of the BDP.

According to Tarhan Erdem, a former politician who is currently the head of a polling company, Kışanak’s demand for receiving a share of income from all resources in the province of Diyarbakır might be a tool to pave the way for strengthening municipalities, for letting them have more say in the affairs of the cities, provinces and to resolve the Kurdish issue.

In his article that appeared in the Radikal daily on Monday, Erdem, who called on all sides to elaborate on the issue instead of engaging in a heated political debate, said: “After conducting a study on the resources to be demanded [from the central government] and the definition of the share to be given to municipalities … the mayor of Diyarbakır, and probably other heads of metropolitan municipalities, should announce it [the result] to the public.”