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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
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 Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
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 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 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.

VOA Blogs