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

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

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs