Thursday, December 17, 2009

DTP ban elicits demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurds say they are worried, but continue to hope for wise solutions in Turkey
Demonstrators seek to “break the silence of the Iraqi Kurds toward their problems in Turkey.”
Nearly 300 people throughout Iraqi Kurdistan gathered Tuesday in front of the Region’s Parliament in Erbil, demanding that Iraqi Kurdish leaders take a stance on recent developments concerning Kurds in Turkey. The Region’s leaders consider the Kurdish question there a Turkish internal problem, but they hope for the continuation of democratic improvements launched recently by the Turkish government, said an official in Erbil.

The demonstrators gathered in circles to express their demands through traditional Kurdish dancing. They waved colorful flags in support of the Turkish-banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (known by its Turkish acronym as DTP), which last week was banned by the country’s Constitutional Court for allegedly having links with the PKK.
Demonstrator Khajija Ibrahim, over 50 years of age, came from Suleimaniya province’s Zharawa district to demand “freedom for Apo,” in reference to the PKK leader Abdullah Ocelan who has been serving time in a Turkish jail on Imrali Island since 1999. The release of Apo (“Uncle”) means “the victory of Kurds” to this dressed-in-black woman whose husband was killed as a PKK fighter over a dozen years ago.
On the same day of the peaceful demonstration, two protestors were killed as shopkeepers opened fire on a gathering in the southeastern Turkish town of Mus, Reuters quoted a police official.
Ocelan flags were waving all over the Erbil demonstration, which was arranged by several pro-PKK organizations including the Committee of Health Protection for leader Apo and the Kurdistan Solution Democratic Party (KSDP) based in Suleimaniya.
“We came here just to demand our right. The Kurdish people in Turkey are under pressure. The parliament and the government of our brothers here in the south [Iraqi Kurdistan Region] must feel responsibility,” stated Nargis Omer, one of the demonstration organizers. She added they want “to break the silence” of the Iraqi Kurds toward their problems in Turkey.
“Turkey must review their policies toward Kurds…they must recognize our language and confirm our national identity,” said demonstrator Bahroz Hussein, a 22-year-old artist who assures he will continue his demands till he has “the last drop of blood.”
The Kurdish issue in Turkey made media headlines during the last week as a result of the closure of the DTP, which is considered the Kurdish voice in Turkish parliament, holding 21 of its total 550 seats. With their four years of activities in the Kurdish areas in southeast Turkey, the DTP also won 98 municipalities in the last local elections in March 2009.
Turkey’s Constitutional Court decided on December 11 to ban the DTP, revealing that the party had became a focal point of activities against the indivisible unity of the state. The verdict also included isolating two of the DTP parliament members, including its leader Ahmed, as well as barring over 30 DTP members from politics for five years.
“The problem is not the closure of DTP alone but the Kurdish question in Turkey. Without solving the Kurdish problems, essentially Turkey will never witness stability and peace,” said Sardar Sitar, a KSDP leader who attended the gathering.
He added that banning the DTP is a measure taken against the whole Kurdish issue because it was the only political face of Kurds in Turkey. The closure “shows that the Turkish authority doesn’t recognize this political [representative] and doesn’t want to settle the [Kurdish] issue politically.”
In an immediate reaction, the Kurdistan Region Presidency released a statement saying they are “worried” about the closure of the DTP. The Presidency also said they were “happy” when the Turkish government, led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), initiated a project for developing democracy in Turkey. The Presidency “hopes that the decision of Turkey…does not halt the important process,” read the statement, which also called on adopting peaceful policies in favor of the success of that project.
Because of the sensitivity of the Kurdistan issue in Turkey, the Kurdistan leadership might want to talk much further than the content of the Presidency’s statement, noted Aso Karim, a member of the Kurdistan Region Parliament, to the “Globe. “
“The Kurdish question inside Turkey is an internal issue of Turkey,” stated Karim, who wishes for the continuation of developing relations between Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government since, he noted, “The more peace roots in Turkey, the better impact it will have on Turkey’s relations with the KRG. Also, positive relations with the KRG help to solve the Kurdish problem in Turkey peacefully.”
The Kurdish lawmaker also believes that the continuation of the demonstrations and strikes—particularly if they are turned into riots and violence—will influence the Turkish government developing democracy.
“The Turkish government remained alone to carry on the project after the closure of the DTP. The government was in need to be supported by a power among the Kurds,” said Karim, who advised acting with “wisdom” to fill the gap created after the DTP closure. He also called on the Turkish democratic political organization to peacefully amend their law of political activities in accordance with European standards of the Venice Criteria to stop the routine of banning political parties in countries.
However, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his party had suggested for such constitutional amendments and that his party was against closing down political parties, reported the Turkish “Hurriyet” daily news on Wednesday.
The paper also revealed that the DTP members have close to organizing the Peace and Democratic Party (BDP) as their new organization. “Some DTP signboards were already replaced with BDP signboards in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country,” read the report in the paper.
The BDP is a new pro-Kurdish party established in May 2009 by Mustafa Ayzit and other figures, most who served in other already Kurdish parties and a number of former mayors had ruled some municipalities in the Kurdish areas.

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