The Constitutional Court’s closure of the pro-Kurdish DTP highlights the flaws of the Turkish ‘democracy’ more than any recent event. It is now apparent to the entire world that legal and constitutional standards in Turkey simply do not measure up to international democratic ideals. The decision to ban the DTP marks a colossal step backwards for human rights, democratisation and Kurdish rights in the country.
Two months ago there was an air of optimism as Kurdish refugees from Mexmur and PKK fighters from the Qandils crossed back into Turkey. The AKP’s Democratic Initiative was underway. Last month the AKP announced details of the historic plan. Kurds were hopeful, yet holding their breath.
But not everyone was happy. Nationalists and conservatives in particular were demonstrably upset. The judiciary, staunch conservatives, believe that the Kurds and the Kurdish political movement represented by the DTP are a threat to the ‘indivisible integrity of the state’ because of their close ties to the PKK. Such being the case, in their view, the party had to be disbanded to protect the state.
But at the same time, could this have been a strike against the AKP and its initiative to give more rights to the Kurds? With the DTP effectively silenced in parliament, perhaps the court was thinking it could force new elections that would weaken the AKP’s power, thus damaging its chance to push through any pro-Kurdish reforms.
With Kurdish political channels now shut down, despair has once again overtaken hope. Said Ahmet Türk, former head of the now defunct DTP, late on Friday after the announcement of the closure was made, ‘Turkey is going through a painful period, and of course blocking democratic politics deepens the sense of hopelessness.’
Ahmet Türk along with Aysel Tuğluk have been removed from Parliament, but not the other 19 DTP members. The choice for the remaining parliamentarians is to stay on and fight in Parliament, as Türk would like to see happen. Emine Ayna, DTP deputy chair, on the other hand, seems to favour a complete withdrawal from Parliament.
Should the 19 stay, and if they are able to garner the support of one more parliamentarian, they could then form a parliamentary group with the Peace and Democracy Party (Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi), the BDP. The BDP was formed in early 2008, just a few months after the indictment against the DTP was announced in November 2007. Tomorrow’s party congress in Diyarbakır will help determine the fate of Kurdish politics in Turkey.
The DTP and its lawyers are also preparing to appeal the party’s closure at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile, clashes have erupted in Istanbul, Diyarbakır, Yüksekova, and other cities between Kurdish demonstrators and Turkish security police. Protests in some areas have turned violent with protestors throwing Molotov cocktails. In Istanbul police broke up clashes between demonstrators and local residents wielding clubs and knives. There are reports of detentions, hospitalisations, and at least one death.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül said of the outbreaks of violence across the country, ‘Tension or clashes have no benefit for anyone. All problems can be solved by democratic and political measures.’ He also said that the Constitutional Court’s decision should be respected and that ‘the Turkish state is acting with good intentions.’