A serious schism is deepening in Turkey over the welcoming of the 34 PKK fighters and refugees who arrived earlier this week. Fifteen more members of the PKK will arrive in Istanbul on Wednesday, 28 October. This second peace group will fly in from Europe. The DTP has issued a statement in which it states they are planning a welcome at the airport and a massive reception to “meet the PKK members from Europe with the same glory.” DTP Istanbul co-chair, Mustafa Avci, said it would be “a feast” in honour of those returning.
The jubilant celebrations earlier this week though have triggered a probe against the DTP. The Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcınkaya, will be examining footage and photos of rallies and demonstrations to determine any possible charges against the DTP.
Turkish PM Erdoğan issued a warning on Thursday not to exploit the “homecoming process” for political ends. He said this was the last chance for success and cautioned the DTP “not to ruin” the initiative the AKP has put forth. He hinted that, if necessary, the government could consider suspending the whole process. This, however, does not seem plausible. The celebrations and rallies and cries of joy hit the country like a tsunami.
President Abdullah Gül said the celebrations were “provocative” and he did not “endorse such moves.”
However, neither Erdoğan nor Gül blamed the DTP directly for the rallies and celebrations, but rather voiced their concerns through Interior Minister Beşir Atalay. Atalay accused the DTP of acting irresponsibly and said he has no tolerance for such scenes.
The military too has begun criticising the celebrations. Major General Ferit Güler said at a news conference, “Everybody should refrain from acts that could drag the country toward polarisation, separation, and conflict.” Isn’t this what already exists, Major General?
European reactions were somewhat more favourable. While the EU have backed Ankara’s efforts at reconciliation, they noted too that Turkish authorities should take concrete measures to turn the initiative into reality. Helen Flautre, co-chair of the Turkey-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee, was cautiously optimistic and said it is a “promising moment heralding the end of so many sufferings in the country.”
If 100,000 people gathered in Diyarbakır’s Batıkent Square on Wednesday to welcome home the first PKK group, how many will gather in Istanbul for the second group? And what will the government’s reaction be?
The fifteen PKK members in Europe will hold a press conference in Brussels on 27 October to discuss their return. From there they will fly to Düsseldorf and then to Istanbul arriving on the 28th. There will be a convoy to take them from the airport to the rally and celebration in Kazlıçeşme, a neighborhood in Istanbul that has seen this type of celebration before. But not without consequences. In March 2008 during a Newroz celebration more than 100,000 gathered for the festivities. 10,000 members of the Turkish security forces were deployed in Kazlıçeşme to intimidate the crowds. Clashes erupted, two people were killed, several hundred were injured, and hundreds were detained over a three-day period.
Let’s hope the celebrations to come are not met with the same violence from the military forces. Let’s hope. Aştî.
Hacaoglu, Selcan. Turkish Official Urges Kurdish Rebels to Surrender. Taiwan Times, 23 October 2009.
EU backs Kurdish initiative, wants concrete steps. Today’s Zaman, 23 October 2009.
Rift over PKK reception deepens: DTP says same will happen in Istanbul. Hürriyet Daily News, 23 October 2009.
DTP to greet PKK groups from Europe with rallies despite warnings. World Bulletin/News Desk, 23 October 2009.
Turkish prosecutor opens probe on DTP over PKK welcomings. World Bulletin/News Desk, 23 October 2009.
Reception for returnees causes rift, probe launched against DTP. Hürriyet Daily News, 22 October 2009