Kurdish DTP Party Banned in Turkey

Old Prejudices Resurface

The Turkish ban on the Democratic Society Party (DTP) has led to protests and riots. Some Kurdish politicians are considering forming a new party, but since the 1990s three have already been banned. Jürgen Gottschlich investigates

Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tugluk (photo: AP)
A tough blow for the moderate Kurdish politicians: the expulsion of Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tugluk is likely to mean that more radical politicians take the lead

​​ In his final press conference as leader of the Kurdish DTP party, banned on Friday 11 December by the constitutional court, Ahmet Türk made a bitter assessment of recent weeks' events: "We campaigned for peace; but they banned us."

Türk announced that all former DTP politicians will now leave the parliament. Türk, personally banned from politics by Turkey's constitutional court, nevertheless refuses to give up hope. "Peace will one day be achieved," he told journalists in no uncertain terms.

The days following the announcement of the DTP ban have not exactly been peaceful however, with burning barricades in the cities of south-east Turkey, largely populated by Kurds.

A Kurdish intifada

Thousands of angry demonstrators fought bloody street battles with the police and gendarmes. In Hakkari, Van and Diyarbakir Kurdish youths barricaded off whole districts and held prolonged skirmishes with the police.

On Saturday 12 December businesses in all Kurdish cities remained closed in protest against the ban. For some time there has been talk of a Kurdish intifada.

Violent demonstration in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir (photo: dpa)
A new dimension to a conflict which has been smouldering for years: following the announcement of the DTP ban there were protests in many south-east Anatolian cities and in Istanbul, with countless arrests and injuries

​​The images are horribly reminiscent of the early 1990s when the war between the army and the PKK reached its peak. Then too, four Kurdish parliamentarians, who had entered parliament as registered Social Democrats were convicted of supporting the PKK and taken straight from parliament to prison.

One of these was Leyla Zana, the most famous Kurdish politician who, although she is not even a member of the DTP, has again been included amongst the thirty-five individuals personally forbidden from engaging in politics for five years by the constitutional court alongside its ban on the party.

In the case of Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tugluk this is particularly dramatic. The two leaders of the former Kurdish parliamentary group were the main spokespeople for the moderate wing of the Kurdish movement; their exclusion is likely to mean that more radical elements now take the lead.

So far there has been no statement from the Kurdish side on their next political move. The departure from parliament is a demonstration of their protest, but does not represent a final decision.

With Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tugluk banned from participating in politics, nineteen of the original twenty-one former DTP parliamentarians remain. They are now independent politicians without a party, but could unite in founding a new party in order to form a new parliamentary group.

Parliamentary-group status requires at least twenty members, but the previously independent left-wing politician Ufuk Uras has already stated that if necessary he would join the group.

Further protests promised

image source: Wikimedia Commons
Party logo of the Demokratik Toplum Partisi (DTP): with the DTP ban and the blockading tactics of the Kurdish hardliners, the Erdogan government's conciliatory approach seems doomed

​​ The Kurds initially plan to hold a large assembly in Diyarbakir – there is talk of a Kurdish parliament – in order to decide whether to return to the Turkish parliament with a new party. It would be the fourth since the beginning of the 1990s; three have already been banned.

The PKK has meanwhile declared that with the constitutional court's decision, dialogue can definitively be said to have failed. The PKK prisoners said that state, media, military, police and judiciary had shown their racist, colonialist faces.

The prisoners have announced a hunger strike and called on the population to show "resistance on the streets". With the attack on a military vehicle last week, for which the PKK claimed responsibility just a few hours before the constitutional court's judgement last Friday and in which seven soldiers were killed, the mood was already tense.

Jürgen Gottschlich

© Qantara.de 2009

Translated from the German by Steph Morris

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