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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid