News / Europe

Kurdish Issue Heats Up Before Turkey's Parliamentary Vote

Kurdish demonstrators clash with riot police in Istanbul, May 16, 2011
Kurdish demonstrators clash with riot police in Istanbul, May 16, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +

With just weeks to go before Turkey’s June 12 parliamentary vote, tensions are rising over Turkey's Kurdish minority's demands for the greater rights. The election campaign has already been marred by violent demonstrations , clashes between the army and the PKK rebel group as well as many  arrests.  But the ruling AK party are committed to taking a tough stance against the unrest.

Kurdish youths clash with police in the center of Istanbul.

Similar clashes have also occurred across much of Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast. It is in response to last weekend's killing by the Turkish army of 12 members of Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or the PKK.

Tough stance

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media during a news conference in Ankara, April 7, 2011
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media during a news conference in Ankara, April 7, 2011

Since the start of his election campaign, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken a tough stance against the rebel group and the country's main pro-Kurdish party, the BDP.

"We can’t get anywhere with those who try to undermine the democratic will of the people," he said in an address to parliamentary candidates. "There is no longer a Kurdish question in this country. I do not accept this."

That stance differs from 2005 when the prime minister declared in  a speech "There was a Kurdish problem." 

Greater cultural rights

In the last general election in 2007, Erdogan campaigned on the platform of meeting Kurdish demands for greater cultural rights. In the past few years, the government developed a 24-hour state Kurdish TV station and launched what it called the "Democratic Opening" to end the 26-year conflict with the PKK. But that broke down in mutual recriminations.

"The whole government was disappointed, even resentful, about their attempts towards the Kurds. But they saw the benefit of getting nationalist votes away from the nationalistic party. They saw there is a solid support ground and they can easily get more votes by underlining their nationalist credentials rather than democratic credentials and this explains their present policy," Political columnist Nuray Mert explains.

Increasing legal pressure

Peace and Democracy party's first campaign for Turkey's election in Diyarbakir, 14 May 2011
Peace and Democracy party's first campaign for Turkey's election in Diyarbakir, 14 May 2011

In last few years the pro-Kurdish BDP has been getting more organized and has high hopes of defeating the AKP in the predominantly Kurdish southeast in the upcoming elections.  But the party is facing increasing legal pressure.  

Last month there were nationwide protests by Kurds when many BDP-supported parliamentary candidates were banned by Turkey's electoral commission because of alleged links to the PKK. The decision was later reversed, but during the unrest one person was shot dead by the police and hundreds arrested.  According to the Turkish-based Human Rights Society, in past 50 days more than 2500 ethnic Kurds have been detained by the police. This month, Aysel Tugluk a leading BDP supported parliamentary candidate gave this warning about the crackdown.

"A calamity is just around the corner. I am not pessimistic," she says. "I only possess the sensibility that emanates from intuition and foresight.  Once again we are at a crossroads. Everyone who is concerned about the Kurdish issue should know that we are moving toward ground zero, and fast."

So far, the AKP has defended the measures taken against the BDP. The prime minister accused the party of being involved in an attack earlier this month by the PKK on a campaign bus of its members returning from a rally.  

AKP parliamentary candidate Volkan Bozkir, is a former Turkish ambassador to the European Union. "It is not because they have said something. But they are part of a terrorist organization. They have been helping those terrorists who are killing young people,” he said.

PKK's uttimatum

A person holds a poster of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan as Kurdish demonstrators march in Istanbul, Turkey, April 19, 2011
A person holds a poster of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan as Kurdish demonstrators march in Istanbul, Turkey, April 19, 2011

Last month imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan issued an ultimatum that unless talks start over greater Kurdish rights within three days of the general election, fighting will resume.

But Political scientist Cengiz Aktar says any hope of dialogue is remote. "The government have extreme difficulties to understand that they should talk to Kurds. In their minds there are plenty of bad Kurds and a few good Kurds who belong to their party. When there is vacuum in policy others come in and fill this vacuum, both the Turkish military and PKK may come back. Unless the government solves the Kurdish problem through political means the military will always be around," he said.  

The ending of the Turkish army's interference in politics is heralded by the ruling AK party as well as the EU which Turkey is seeking to join - one of its most important democratic accomplishments of Erdogan’s rule. But that breakthrough came at a time of relative peace. A return to widespread conflict, observers warn, could well unravel many of the country's achievements.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid