Posted by: hevallo | January 20, 2009

Sebahat Tuncel Urges Support for DTP.

By David Morgan, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, 18 January 2008

A public meeting on the threatened closure of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) by the Turkish courts took place in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons on 15 January.

The packed meeting hosted by Labour MP Eric Joyce heard an address by guest speaker Sebahat Tuncel, an MP representing the DTP from Istanbul, who outlined the court case that has been initiated against her party and the likely consequences of any ban for democracy in the country.

Strong expressions of support for the DTP were voiced by members of the audience. It was widely felt that the party’s policy of pluralism and peace in Turkey offered hope for both Kurds and Turks after years of conflict and suffering.

Ms Tuncel called on British MPs to take a close interest in what is happening inside Turkey today, particularly with respect to the legal action against her party, although it has won support from large numbers of Kurdish people.

Although progress has been made in democratic reform over recent years, there was always a danger that these steps could be reversed as long as the Kurdish Question goes unresolved, she said.

Both Britain and the EU should realise that Turkey still needs to find a solution to the Kurdish issue before it can achieve and secure its own full democratisation, the meeting was told.

The absurdity of the current situation is illustrated by the fact that Kurdish-speaking members of the Turkish Parliament are forced to register their mother tongue as “an unknown language” simply because the state refuses to recognise the existence of Kurdish.

Such procedures still prevail despite the recent opening of a state-controlled Kurdish language television channel in Turkey.

Ms Tuncel reminded everyone of the fragility of the democratic process in Turkey and the repressive measures that have been taken against Kurdish political party organisations over many years. The DTP was accused of failing to denounce the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

The MP stressed that the real reason for the case against the DTP was rooted in the historic failure of the Turkish state to come to terms with the Kurdish presence and its denial that there is a “Kurdish Question”.

The DTP was formed in 2005 after a succession of previous constitutional parties supported by Kurds such as HADEP and DEHAP had been shut down by the state. The Kurdish people were therefore all too familiar with these attempts to marginalise and exclude them from the democratic process.

Despite all the obstacles placed in their way, Kurds remained determined to make their voice heard by fighting elections at local and national level. In 2007, the DTP gained representation in the Turkish Parliament when 22 of its members were elected despite the 10 percent voting threshold that is designed to exclude minority parties. The DTP now makes up the 4th largest party bloc in the Parliament.

The DTP is also strongly represented at local level in the Kurdish South East of the country and the meeting also highlighted the importance of Turkey’s forthcoming local elections in March and the prospects for stronger representation of the Kurds.

Sebahat Tuncel described the DTP’s position as on the side of peace and pluralism which would equally bring benefits to both Kurds and Turks. The party felt that dialogue was essential to resolve the ongoing conflict which had caused so much suffering over the years. The Kurds had endured four million of their people displaced and 10,000 extra-judicial killings, with many disappeared people remaining unaccounted for.

The root of the conflict was not the PKK and its alleged terrorism, but the policy of denial of the Kurds which has meant that 20 million people had been assumed simply not to exist with their language and culture not recognised.

The PKK should be understood as the latest manifestation of the uprising of the Kurdish people against the intolerable repression that Kurds have been suffering for many decades. The numerous unilateral ceasefires and proposals for peace issued by the PKK should not go unmentioned.

Eric Joyce, who chaired the meeting, said that the DTP clearly had an important role to play in the democratic process in Turkey, but firmly urged Kurds to emphatically “disavow” all forms of violence and develop a credible programme to move the dialogue forward.

The meeting also heard from Lord Wallace, Liberal Democrat spokesman on Foreign Affairs, who saw many signs of progress from Turkey but felt that its critics needed to moderate their demands in order to avoid any adverse reaction.

The meeting was supported by the Kurdish Federation UK (Fed-bir), Kurdish Community Centre (KCC) Haringey, Halkevi (Kurdish Turkish Community Centre) Hackney; Kurdish Community Centre Croydon, Roj Kurdish Women’s Association London, Heyva Sor (Kurdish Red Crescent), Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and the Kurdistan Solidarity Committee.

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