We’ve talked to Ilyas Buzgan the President of the Platform, about the success of the Kurdish language course at ISMEKs which were cited as examples of successful work of local governments and civil communities, and the works of Rights Defenders Platform.
Let’s start by getting to know the Rights Defenders Platform and yourself. What was the reason for founding the platform?
My name is Ilyas Buzgan, I was born in Bingöl. I attended primary and high school in Bingöl. I am a graduate of public administration and philosophy. I am at the stage of master’s thesis in international relations. I have been living in Istanbul since 1996. Between 1998-2005 I worked as a manager in a private company. Between 2005-2018 I established my own company and served in the private sector. In the last quarter of 2018, we established the Rights Defenders Platform.
There are two main reasons for the establishment of the platform: one political and one cultural. With AK Party and MHP authorizing power through the cult of people, this authoritarianism encouraging an ideological totalitarianism, building a judiciary and media order compatible with the authoritarian and totalitarian politics as well as defaming and counteracting the opposition with concepts such as terrorism and treason and all this narrowing the areas of freedom can be listed as a negative political cause for us. The fact that Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality not providing any services regarding the language, literature and culture of millions of Kurdish citizens of Istanbul had mainly represents the cultural negative reason. It was these factors that encouraged us to take responsibility. Therefore, we can define the civil mission of the platform as supporting democratic and libertarian politics and providing logistic and technical support to the public services related to Kurdish language, culture and literature.
‘Two Courses Has Been Approved’
Your work on Kurdish in ISMEK courses has been successful, how has this process been and at what stage is it?
Yes, I mean, it is a positive step in terms of a beginning, even if it has not resulted in the exact level we wanted it to be. In January 2019, we had a four-hour meeting with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Canan Kaftancıoğlu and Ekrem İmamoğlu with the participation of 25 volunteers. We conveyed the demands and tendencies of the Kurdish people living in Istanbul. We told them that Kurdish courses, Kurdish kindergartens and Kurdish theaters services not being provided in İSMEK is incompatible with the principles of fairness and justice in representation and that we would support them if they provide these services. They said that those demands were reasonable and they will be met if they won the elections. After winning the election, we had a few more meetings with them as well. We have provided technical and logistical support. We gave information about the number of teachers and courses. Currently, two courses have been approved. We are expecting two courses in the Kurmanci dialect to become active at both Anatolian and European sides. However, we do not find it sufficient, both in terms of number and we also want it not to be limited only by Kurmanci dialect and Zazaki language to be included. But we see it as an important development for the beginning.
These studies are conducted at the local level. How will these demands that you have submitted to the Municipality contribute to these demands spreading to the country level?
Although our demands has begun at the local level, we said that they should not be limited to local approaches when it comes to the problems in the country. In order for a political party that aspired to power to bring prosperity to the country in every sense and to make democracy more alive, we have conveyed that such activities should be included in their programs. We have told that CHP should be reconciled with Kurdish people and religious Muslims, and that the jacobin attitude towards the religious and ethnic structures in different parts of the country should not be repeated. We have repeatedly informed them that the past mistakes should not be made again and the promises must be fulfilled and that we will support them under these conditions. At this point, in order to find lasting solutions to the problems in every field from micro level to macro level, it is necessary to approach the problems with a universal, fair and fundamental state of law approach.
‘The platform is very new and growing.’
From this point on, what are the activities of the platform concerning the civil society? What approaches does it want to take for women and youth?
We have held various meetings in order to solve the problems in the country. In particular, we held a series of meetings with political parties. We carry out political philosophy readings and workshops to increase the political, philosophical and cultural levels of our friends. We are entering the process of becoming an association. We are planning to increase our workshops with the association. The platform is very new, and growing. At this point, we are considering opening accounts in six different languages on social media. We aim to enrich the activities with the dialects of Turkish, English, Arabic and Kurdish.
However, speaking of women and youth, the number of women, unfortunately, is less. I think we should have more women members, women should be more active subjects within the platform and they should be more active with all their colorfulness. I think that our view of women and the patriarchal paradigm should be deformed. At this point, we advocate the world view with the imagination of a society in which civil society exists in every sense, renders itself a subject and excludes violence as well as the language of violence. We define ourselves as “being addicted to law”. Young people make up the majority of the platform. There are young people from various universities joining us. We care about them, their articipation and their world view, their lively ideas excite us. I think that together with the institutional process, we will be a constitution where they will be more active.