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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid