Turkey Tense as Court Considers Kurd Party's Fate

The future of Turkey's main Kurdish party hangs in the balance as the country's constitutional court deliberates whether to shut down the Democratic Society Party. The government has accused the party of supporting terrorism.



The future of Turkey's main Kurdish party hangs in the balance as the country's constitutional court deliberates whether to shut down the Democratic Society Party.  The government has accused the party of supporting terrorism.

Turkey's highest court this week began final deliberations on a case seeking to shut down the main Kurdish party on charges of backing the militant Kurdistan Workers Party, a charge the Democratic Society Party has denied.

DTP leader Ahmet Turk condemned the case.

"Unfortunately this is such a wrong reasoning," he said.  "We are face-to-face with such a wrong logic that takes our liquidation as the basis for solution to the Kurdish problem," he said.

"If the DTP is closed, we have no plans to remain in parliament as independents.  There is no point for the party to even take part in the next elections," he said.

Analysts say the party could take its struggle for greater Kurdish rights to the streets, further ratcheting up ethnic tensions.  And, this week, it seemed to begin.

Kurdish youths clashed with police in several cities across the predominantly Kurd region in southeast of Turkey.  The protests were in response to the death of a student who was demonstrating over the treatment of imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The student was shot in the back at close range in what human-rights activists say was an execution by security forces.  The government says the killing is being investigated.  

The DTP is widely seen as being the voice for much of the country's Kurdish population.  The party scored a landslide victory in this year's local elections and regularly secures a majority of the votes in parliamentary polls in the region.

The closure of the pro-Kurdish party could have far-reaching consequences on Turkey's bid to join the European Union warns Richard Howitt, a member of the European Parliament's standing committee on Turkey.

"It is a disaster if a mainstream political party, which clearly represents a legitimate strand of the electorate ... because what does that mean?  It really questions whether there is a democratic plurality within the country, and I cannot predict what the European response might be, but what I know is that could be as bad suspension," he said.

Since its creation in 1964 the constitutional court has closed down 24 political parties.  Since the 1990s it has been mainly pro-Kurdish parties that have been shut.  Last year, the ruling Justice and Development Party narrowly escaped closure after being convicted by the court of threatening the secular state.

Court Chief Hasan Killic has appealed to the government to change the law to prevent such closure cases.  That call has been echoed by the European Union, but the calls have gone unheeded.  Now observers say hopes of change seem remote as the government is facing a growing nationalist backlash over its peace efforts to resolve the Kurdish conflict.

One of the mothers of the seven Turkish soldiers killed Monday in an attack that is being blamed on the PKK.

Thousands of people demonstrated against rebels, chanting "Our country will never be divided" as ethnic tensions continue to rise.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attack and promised a harsh response.

He says surely, those who realized and planned this despicable attack and who pulled the trigger will reap the consequences.  I am repeating one more time, whoever was at the front and behind this act will pay the heaviest price.

Newspaper columnist and political scientist of Istanbul University Nuray Mert warns the increasingly harsh rhetoric from both sides gives little hope for peace.  
"The Kurdish problem does not lead anywhere.  Not only on behalf of state policies, but also on behalf of Kurdish politics," said Mert.  "Their discourse will get even more provocative. And I then think another wave of harsh discourse will come out and it will turn out into a vicious cycle of provocations.  State discourse and Kurdish discourse , and then more tough state discourse.  It does not lead any where."

This week the deputy leader of the DTP, Emine Ayna, declared the government peace efforts dead.  That may be premature, but observers warn if the DTP is closed it could deal those efforts a mortal blow, as well as having far-reaching international consequences and plunging the country into chaos. 

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