News / Middle East

Tensions in Streets of Turkey Ratcheting Up Before Kurdish Trial

People demonstrate in favor of Kurdish politicians near a courthouse before more than 150 Kurds, including a dozen elected mayors, went on trial in Diyarbakir, Turkey, for alleged links with a Kurdish guerrilla group, Oct. 18, 2010 (File Photo)
People demonstrate in favor of Kurdish politicians near a courthouse before more than 150 Kurds, including a dozen elected mayors, went on trial in Diyarbakir, Turkey, for alleged links with a Kurdish guerrilla group, Oct. 18, 2010 (File Photo)
Dorian Jones

The controversial trial of nearly 200 leading members of the country's main legal Kurdish party is due to resume on Thursday in Turkey. The defendants, which include elected officials, are accused of being part of a terrorist network linked to the Kurdish insurgent group the PKK.

The case is the largest of its kind in more than decade and comes as Kurdish groups are seeking a peaceful solution to more than 25 years of fighting. Tensions are rising ahead of the trial.

Hundreds of people battled with police in towns and cities Sunday across the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey, protesting the trial.

At a news conference, Aysel Tugluk, head of a Kurdish umbrella group DTK, called for an end to the trial.

"This freak of law should come to an end, and in order to proceed with a truly democratic Turkey, what is necessary is for true law to be realized," Tugluk said. "Our arrested friends should be immediately released."

Tugluk  was the joint leader of Turkey's main Kurdish party, the DTP, until it was closed down by the constitutional court last year for supporting the PKK. The court also expelled her from parliament.  

In a separate court case, Tugluk also is facing decades in jail for speeches she made.

The defendants in Thursday's trial also face similarly long sentences if convicted. The trial is part of a wider investigation, with nearly 2,000 members arrested from the pro-Kurdish BDP.

Ergemen Bagis, Turkey's minister for EU membership, however, said the investigation is not politically motivated.

"The detentions were not because they were members of a political party,  because they were channeling, according to the allegations of the prosecutors, funds from the municipalities to the terrorist organization. And when you talk to the BDP members, they are confused, they get orders from different places, and they get contradicting orders, that are not a very democratic approach," said Bagis.

The terrorist organization to which Bagis is referring is the PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state for greater Kurdish rights since 1984. The PKK has called a cease-fire until next June's general election, and last month the BDP, along with other Kurdish groups, launched a civil campaign for greater rights, centered on using the Kurdish language. Some analyst say the move is an important sign the struggle for Kurdish rights could be moving away from an armed struggle to a more peaceful one.

Political scientist Cengiz Aktar warns, though, that Thursday's trial, along with the ongoing legal crackdown, can only undermine such efforts.

"It's very counterproductive of course, it's clearly counterproductive," said Aktar. "I mean there is no way we can talk about a solution for the Kurdish problem while there is a trial involving elected members of Kurdish politics."

One of those on trial is the mayor of Diyarbakir, Osman Baydemir. He is a leading figure within the Kurdish movement and a key architect in the civilian initiative. He declared that the armed struggle is no longer relevant.

Observers warn that the fate of people like Baydemir could well determine the direction of the Kurdish struggle.

But the government is resolutely standing behind the prosecutions, accusing the BDP of failing to disassociate itself from the PKK.

That stance, experts say, will play well with its nationalist conservative voters, which it's courting ahead of next June's election. Election considerations also are cited as a reason why the ruling AK party is shelving its own initiative for Kurdish reforms until after the polls.

Gultan Kisanak, joint  leader of the Kurdish party BDP, said the government is playing a dangerous game. "If you say the guns should be silenced, let's all talk and make our suggestions for solution together," she said. "Let's not leave it to tomorrow, to the aftermath of the elections. Let's not prepare the ground for more clashes after the June 12th election."

Observers say such a call is likely to go unheeded, especially as the country is entering an election period. They also say pictures of leading Kurdish figures in court can only strengthen the ruling AK party's credentials among its conservative nationalist base.


You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid