September 1 World Peace Day: The Demand for Peace is a Demand for Human Rights and Democracy!

On the occasion of September 1 World Peace Day,[1] we would once again like to state that we want to live in a world dominated by peace. The right to peace is a human right.

The United Nations was founded by the UN Charter that was adopted and proclaimed in 1945. The Preamble and Chapter I of the Charter underline that the purpose of the United Nations is to promote respect for peace and human rights and freedoms. The opening article and Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was drafted by the UN Human Rights Commission and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, emphasize the requirement that peace, and the international and national social orders upon which peace shall be founded need to be based on the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration. The UN General Assembly approved and proclaimed the Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace by resolution 39/11 of November 12, 1984. The declaration stresses the sacred right to peace and the fact that to ensure the preservation and implementation of this right constitutes a fundamental obligation of each state.

The demand for peace is not only related to civil and political rights (the right to life, ban on torture, the right to personal freedom and security, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of association, etc.) but is also related to economic, social, and cultural rights (right to work, right to housing, right to health, right to education, linguistic rights). The fundamental approach that İHD also adopts and shares in these texts is that peace is based on human rights and freedoms. All kinds of inequality among people, failure to acknowledge rights and freedoms are the primary causes of wars and conflicts. İHD, therefore, believes that peace can be achieved based on rights and freedoms under all circumstances and all around the world.

Turkey has a pluralistic ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural fabric. Pluralism finds its expression in the slogan “Everyone is different, everyone is equal” underlined and reflected by İHD time and again. Pluralism is, at the same time, the foundation of democracy. İHD is of the opinion that there is an inseverable bond between democracy and human rights. İHD, thus, has been underlining that the main problem in Turkey is a human rights and democracy problem while identifying the most significant component of this main problem as the Kurdish issue.

Turkey Has an Urgent Peace Problem

Turkey is a country that has not been able to solve its main problems like the Kurdish issue by utilizing conflict resolution methods based on dialogue and negotiation. Consequently, armed conflict continues both in the country and abroad.

The state of armed conflict brought about by the failure to come up with a solution to the Kurdish issue affects all areas in life. The current economic crisis in Turkey cannot be explained by disregarding this environment of conflict witnessed in the Kurdish issue. The economic cost of military campaigns that the state conducts both within the country and abroad (Syria and Iraq) in order to main this state of armed conflict and war is rather high and this overstrains Turkey’s budget. Turkey has been engaged in a state of armed conflict for a very long time.

According to the data collected by İHD, 3,272 individuals (soldiers, police officers, village guards, armed militants, and civilians) were killed while 2,646 individuals were injured between 2015 and 2018. While 946 individuals were killed in extrajudicial executions, 1,127 individuals were injured in all Turkey between the same time period under the influence of this environment of armed conflict. The number of individuals who were attacked and killed without the perpetrators known, notably attacks by illegal organizations, was 627, while the number of those who were injured in such attacks was 3,529 during the same period. When one adds these numbers up, it is seen that a total of 4,845 individuals were killed while 7,302 individuals were injured. These figures reveal the fact that gross human rights and humanitarian law violations have taken place. According to the data provided by the Documentation Center at the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), on the other hand, a minimum number of 369 curfews, which could have been officially confirmed, have been declared in a total of 11 cities and 51 districts within the period between 16 August 2015 when the curfews were initiated for an indefinite period of time (with an open-ended termination date) and/or around-the-clock (prescribed to last for 24 hours) and 1 June 2019. The consequences of the state of armed conflict in the cities, provinces, and the rural areas where the curfews were initiated have been considerably grave. Hundreds of civilians were killed alongside with about 500 thousand people forcibly displaced because of the destroyed residential areas. Yet, it was indeed the period of non-conflict between 2013 and 2015, referred to as the peace and resolution process, brought about peace in Turkish society. Thousands of people, however, have been killed and injured in armed conflict within the last four years.

As the Kurdish issue could not be solved, the military operations conducted by Turkey within the country extended to interventions in Syria also culminating in an intervention in the Syrian city of Afrin in 2018 following the one in Jarabulus-Azaz in 2016. The international community, including the UN, knows that many civilians were killed during the military intervention against Afrin that started in January 2018 and ended in March 2018. Turkey has been engaging in all sorts of initiatives to spread its military campaign into Syria and its zone of influence into Eastern Euphrates. Moreover, it is known that Turkey has constantly been conducting military operations in the Federal Kurdistan Region north of Iraq. No reliable information can be obtained about the loss of lives there. As is seen, the war zone increasingly expands in case that the Kurdish issue remains unresolved. This is unsustainable in humanitarian and financial ways.

The causes of conflict should be eliminated for permanent peace. The first step that should be taken towards implementing permanent peace is to put an end to conflict, to enable dialogue paths remain open, and to provide an opportunity for a resolution based on human rights and democracy. Although the lifting of the isolation on Abdullah Öcalan following hunger strikes in prisons and the fact that he was allowed to meet with his lawyers and family after a long time are both positive developments, this process has been intermittently maintained. The removals from office of Diyarbakır Greater Municipality Co-Mayor Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı, Mardin Greater Municipality Co-Mayor Ahmet Türk and Van Greater Municipality Co-Mayor Bedia Özgökçe Ertan, who had won the local elections of 31 March 2019 by a landslide, on the grounds that there have been pending investigations and prosecutions into them prove to be political decisions that pose great challenges to the building of a novel peace process. For Turkey, the path to a new social contract based on democracy and human rights by eliminating the conditions in which the administrative system has become authoritarian passes through peace and defending peace. The most important guarantee for the initiation of a new and sustainable peace process will be the unfaltering solidarity of democratic forces in our country. İHD believes that the united struggle of pro-peace and pro-democracy groups in Turkey will yield results.

İHD will persevere in its human rights struggle for a life dominated by peace both in our country and in the world.

Human Rights Association

[1] September 1 marks the World Day of Peace in Turkey in spite of the fact that September 21 is observed around the world as the International Day of Peace.

Photograph: Peter Kollanyi/AP