December 11, 2009

Peace Bumps in Turkey

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has liquidated the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), deadening the momentum to engage the Kurdish issue. Turkey will have to use the lesson to teach, not divide, for any good to come of the decision.

"The DTP's closure was decided due to its connections with the terror organization and because it became a focal point of the activities against the country's integrity," Constitutional Court Chairman Hasim Kilic said.

Western states are staying mum. The US State Department said the ruling was an internal matter but that Turkey's democracy should advance political freedom for all its citizens and measures that restrict those rights "should be exercised with extreme caution." The EU released a similar statement.

Of course, one of the overriding problems is who is and who isn’t a citizen of Turkey in Kurdish territory.

For now it’s hard to see of any progress coming from today’s decision. Conservatives and nationalists have gotten their way, but nothing has been gained with the Kurds. The DTP was completely dismantled - a possible omen of war with the PKK?

The ruling bans 37 members of the DTP, the only Kurdish party in politics, from politics for five years. The party’s founders - Ahmet Türk, Aysel Tuğluk, Nurettin Demirtaş, Leyla Zana and Selim Sadak - were banned from politics for five years. The party’s assets will be transferred to the Treasury.

But will this really suppress the Kurdish resistance?

“Turkey is going through a process,” Türk said, “and we firmly believe one day they will be ready. Democracy and peace will become a reality. But Turkey will not solve the problem by closing this party. As long as our goal is a solution to the Kurdish problem, it doesn't matter who is banned or not from politics, because our determination to find a solution continues."

“My struggle will not end with the closure of the party.”

In fact, the remaining 19 DTP members who will be allowed to sit in parliament under independent status or another party are instead planning to reform under a new party, which is reportedly allowable. This makes little sense though because the DTP would be right back in power.

Nor will the PKK’s struggle end with the DTP's censorship. What comes next will decide another round of war. The DTP’s links with the PKK are well known to all Turks and Kurds, and many are happy to see the group go. That doesn’t mean aborting a dialogue with the Kurdish nation and return to military operations.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling had been ongoing for two years and Kilic, for his part, rejected that the present situation had any bearing on the court’s decision. This may be so, but now Turkey’s ruling AK Party must adapt and keep the Kurds involved. Erdogan’s initiative can’t be scared off by today.

Negotiating with the Kurdish nation, which is composed of many parts with many agendas, was never going to be easy. Staying the course is imperative. Neither DTP or PKK leadership will give up until Turkey directly addresses and resolves the issue of Kurdish autonomy.

Banning a party today can’t tempt a futile battle tomorrow.

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