Posted by: hevallo | November 24, 2007

Closure of DTP in Turkey will Block Peaceful Solution to Kurdish Question.

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and PNSD Kurdish Advisory Panel Statement.

Judicial plan to ban new Kurdish party will
block much needed political dialogue in Turkey.

We express our profound concern about the Turkish judicial manoeuvre to ban the newly formed DTP (Democratic Society Party), whose support comes overwhelmingly from the country’s grossly under-represented Kurdish population.

The parliamentary elections in Turkey in July 2007 promised to herald a new era in Turkish politics, with the return of ‘pro-Kurdish’ representatives for the first time in many years and with the election of a party (with a clear mandate) that is officially committed towards the promotion of democratic and human rights “reform”.

For a brief hopeful moment, the Kurdish people who for so long have been denied their rightful place in Turkish political life, and who continue to be subjected to repressive conditions and linguistic genocide, saw their fortunes boosted with the prospect that the country was on the road to real, democratic change.

This suggested ban, however, will clearly put any democratising process into reverse and will have far reaching consequences beyond simply dissolving a small political party. It should be recalled that the governing AKP party under Prime Minister Erdogan was returned to power with an increased majority in spite of fierce military opposition.

The election was hailed as a landmark in terms of providing an opportunity towards peacefully resolving the Kurdish issue through democratic channels, with 20 seats won by Kurdish candidates.

They had been forced to stand as independents to overcome the legal obstacle and requirement that any party seeking parliamentary representation has to secure a minimum of 10% of the votes cast – a hurdle which has prevented previous ‘pro-Kurdish’ parties like DEHAP and HADEP from taking up their seats.

The all important 20 seats secured by the Kurdish candidates was also the minimum required to enable them to establish a new party in the Turkish Parliament –and this was promptly formed as the DTP.

It soon became clear, however, that the Chief Prosecutor to the Constitutional Court had been seeking evidence against the DTP for alleged links to the banned PKK. The DTP leadership has strenuously denied any links with the organisation, which it must be acknowledged does command a lot of support among Kurds in Turkey, and for this reason the DTP has rejected calls for it to condemn the PKK outright.

It prefers to take a balanced approach and wishes the Turkish authorities would admit the failings on their part as the only way that Turkey can emerge as a truly modern democracy where the rights of all its citizens are respected. Following a recent appeal by the DTP leadership for autonomy for the Kurds in south-eastern Turkey (still clearly recognising the territorial integrity of Turkey within this formulation and appeal), the Chief Prosecutor, nevertheless, issued an indictment claiming that ‘recent speeches and actions by (DTP) party leaders have proved that the party has become a focal point of activities against the sovereignty of the state and the indivisible unity of the country and the nation’.

This is despite the fact that DTP parliamentary group leader Ahmet Türk has publicly clarified his party’s position: “We have said it hundreds of times: we are citizens of this country … We support unity and integrity … Our suggestions are made to strengthen, not divide Turkey … We do not want a nation breaking up, we want a stronger, democratic nationalisation. The only thing we want is more democracy. Those who insist on calling us ‘separatist’ despite our discourses are either blind or malevolent …

We also want to remind them of something. There is rule of law … Democratic rights are being used [by us]. But you are not discussing the use of such democratic rights” when it comes to the targeting of the DTP (BIA News, 14 November 2007). This indictment seeks to ban 221 of its members (including 8 members of parliament) from political activity for a minimum of five years.

It is the Chief Prosecutor’s declared aim, in essence, to close down the new party. To add to this, the initiative is linked to a wider “anti-democratic, anti-human rights” stance that surely threatens all people in Turkey who are striving for democratic change. As Tolga Korkut has revealed: “In the indictment, links are drawn between the DTP and the Human Rights Association (IHD).

According to the prosecution, ‘it is clear that the association (IHD) works under the control of the PKK’. Hüsnü Öndül, president of the Human Rights Association, has reacted to the indictment, saying, ‘We believe that the Chief Prosecution is violating the principle of the rule of law by accusing the IHD, people who are not [even] part of the case'” (Tolga Korkut, BIA News, 20 November 2007).

In what appears to be a clear case of intimidation and targeting of an internationally respected human rights organisation, Öndül added: “We are not an institution on trial, but the indictment makes judgments about us, [too]. The Chief Prosecution is”, disturbingly, using this ‘initiative’ to even threaten a human rights organisation in Turkey by now “‘making judgments about the IHD, which is not being investigated, in an indictment concerning the demand to close a political party …

A first-year law student would know this, so it is impossible for the Chief Prosecution not to. So how is it that we are mentioned in the indictment? We believe that this is a matter concerning the principle of rule of law … But here we see that not legal criteria, but ideological and political criteria are being used, that there are subjective evaluations. Of course we realise that this is also a threat. The proceedings concern the demand to close a political party which represents an important actor in the Kurdish question in Turkey” (Tolga Korkut, BIA News, 20 November 2007).

Hüsnü Öndül, president of the Human Rights Association (IHD), and Yavuz Önen, president of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TIHV), have jointly issued the following appeal that parliamentarians and pro-democracy supporters in the UK need to reflect upon: “In order to find a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish question, our citizens of Kurdish origin must be permitted to live their own identity.

This must include the political arena. As far as we know from the press, the Chief Prosecution is demanding that the DTP MP’s be stripped of their parliamentar[y] status and tried … It is clear that the demand to close the DTP will not contribute at all to an urgent and democratic solution which all citizens feel is a top priority … One of the most important indicators of the level of democracy existing in a country is how far citizens are offered opportunities to participate in the political arena. Political parties are important opportunities … However”, in Turkey, troublingly, “there are still trials demanding the closure of parties. It is a reality that this situation obstructs the democratisation of political life. We want an end to this practice” (Gokçe Gunduc, BIA News, 19 November 2007).

Both the Turkish Prime Minister and AKP party leaders have spoken against this judicial move to interfere in national political life. Ercan Karakas, honorary president of the Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV), observes that “the DTP MP’s had not committed any crimes threatening the ‘inseparability of the nation’ … Lifting the immunity of the DTP parliamentarians, would”, says Karatas, “be a great mistake: ‘We have great need of the DTP presence in parliament if we want to solve the problems peacefully. If their immunity is lifted, if they are left out of parliament, if they are punished, then the MP’s will suffer, Turkey’s international reputation will suffer, and society will [be] hurt. In short, there would be irreparable damage done’ … Former State Minister Esat Kiratlioglu has also evaluated the lifting of immunity as dangerous” (Erol Onderoglu, BIA News, 16 November 2007).

We, consequently, ask for your support in seeking that this damaging move is emphatically condemned by the British government, the European Union and the European Parliament as a retrograde step by the judicial authorities in Turkey to overturn the freely expressed wishes of the voters in the recent election.

It needs to be made absolutely clear that this move is incompatible with Turkey’s aim to democratise itself and to achieve full EU membership. Moreover, the ban – especially at this time of increased tension – will be a considerable blow to those who are seeking a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey. It will effectively close the door on attempts to resolve the issues by peaceful means and will be viewed as a victory for hawkish factions within the “deep state” who wish to pursue only military – possibly even ‘physically genocidal’ -means. It will be like telling the Kurds, “don’t bother with politics, if you elect Kurdish representatives, we will prosecute them just as we have done in the past”. 23 November 2007

Kurdish Advisory Panel:

Arzu Pesmen, Kurdish Federation UK

Akif Wan, Kurdistan National Congress, UK

Mahmut Colak, Kurdistan National Congress UK

David Morgan, journalist

Desmond Fernandes, political analyst

Estella Schmid, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

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