Tag Archives: HDP

HDP arrests: on the road to dictatorship in Turkey

In the absence of concerted international pressure on Turkey to rein in Erdogan’s authoritarianism, the only plausible outcome is further violence.

By Francis O’Connor. Published 11-8-2016 by ROAR Magazine

"Meeting with the CHP delegation, HDP’s imprisoned Co-Chair Demirtaş has said that he didn’t go abroad despite knowing that he would be arrested, and imprisoned Mardin Co-Mayor Türk said “I am prepared for everything as long as peace is achieved in these lands” Photo: Rojava24/7/Facebook

“Meeting with the CHP delegation, HDP’s imprisoned Co-Chair Demirtaş has said that he didn’t go abroad despite knowing that he would be arrested, and imprisoned Mardin Co-Mayor Türk said “I am prepared for everything as long as peace is achieved in these lands” Photo: Rojava24/7/Facebook

The political situation in Turkey continues to deteriorate in the wake of the attempted coup d’état in July 2016, allegedly organized by the Gülen Movement, a former ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). It has in fact led to a slow incremental counter-coup where Erdogan and his cronies have progressively jailed, marginalized and silenced opponents of all hues — but especially the Kurdish movement.

The botched coup has conceded the Erdogan regime the pretext to arrest 80,000 suspects, 40,000 of whom remain in custody, while forcing the shutdown of more than 150 publications, the firing of more than 100,000 civil servants and the re-staffing of the army’s upper echelons with Erdogan loyalists. It has also furnished Erdogan with the opportunity to eradicate his principal political opponent, the pro-Kurdish, leftist People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which had been hindering his assumption of complete parliamentary control. Erdogan’s campaign culminated in the arrest of twelve HDP MPs, including its co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdag last Friday. Continue reading

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Writing from Diyarbakır under blockade

While writing this article, currently without access to the world, I can’t help but wonder how you will read it.

By Nurcan Baysal. Published 11-1-2016 by openDemocracy

Protests throughout Diyarbakir erupted on October 26, 2016 following the arrests of the city's co-mayors. Image via Twitter.

Protests throughout Diyarbakir erupted on October 26, 2016 following the arrests of the city’s co-mayors. Image via Twitter.

Diyarbakır, the unofficial capital of the Kurdish people, has been one of the main locations of armed conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state. Since August 2015, numerous curfews have been declared in the city and its villages, hundreds of civilians have been killed, the centre of the 5000 year old city Suriçi was bombed, and half of the old city was totally destroyed. The curfew still continues in the old city Suriçi. Today is the 333rd day of the curfew.

Right now, the city is undergoing another trauma. Two days ago, the co-mayors of Diyarbakır, Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı, were detained by the Turkish police with the allegation that they are “supporting the PKK terror organization”. Kışanak was detained in Diyarbakir Airport, on her way back from Ankara, while Anlı was detained at his home in the center of Diyarbakir. According to the press release of the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Kışanak and Anlı were detained due to statements they had made, under laws governing their rights to freedom of speech.

Following their detention, all internet connection was cut across the Kurdish region. 6 million people have been cut off from the world for the past 3 days.

Why did the Turkish government cut off internet in the Kurdish region?

The government is trying to prevent the mobilization of Kurdish people through social media. Kurdish people are very angry because of the detention of their co-mayors. They want to protest. The government has prohibited all kinds of protests, gatherings and marches under the Emergency Law.

This blackout also aims to silence the voices of the Kurdish people,  to prevent them from informing the national and international public about developments in the region.

What has happened in these two “dark” days?

The municipality building has been completely closed by police barriers, panzers and thousands of police officers. Even municipal staff have been forbidden to enter the building.

On the first day, hundreds of people tried to gather in front of the municipality building. The police tried to prevent the people from gathering and protesting. It was a hard day, full of tear gas and water cannon. The police did not only use tear gas and water, but guns were turned against protestors as well. Many people were injured by police violence. At the end of the day, 37 protestors, some of them Kurdish politicians, were also detained.

Thousands of Kurdish people gathered in front of the municipality building on the second day. The co-president of HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş gave a speech to the crowd of people. He said that the Kurdish people will not accept the detention of their co-mayors and encouraged people to continue their peaceful protests until the release of the co-mayors.

Message to Kurds

Kurdish cities have witnessed outrage, killings and bombings all year. Just a month ago, on 11 September, 27 elected mayors were replaced by appointed state officers, 11,285  Kurdish teachers were fired from their jobs. Hundreds of Kurdish politicians and activists have been detained. Almost all Kurdish media, even the Kurdish childrens’ channel have been closed down. As of today, 27 elected Kurdish co-mayors are in prison in Turkey, while 43 of them were dismissed.

The detention of Diyarbakır’s co-mayors is an important phase in a year-long process.

The government has blocked all political access to Kurdish people in Turkey. With these policies, the government is sending a message to all Kurdish people: “There is no legal way to gain rights for Kurdish people.  There is no place for Kurds in this country.”

While looking at my municipality, which has been under police blockade for 3 days, I wonder if the Kurdish people will accept these humiliating policies.

As a member of the Kurdish society, I can easily say NO. Kurds are part of a very organized society, a resilient society, struggling for their rights for more than a century. They will continue their struggle, though I believe these policies risk the future of Turkey as a country.

While writing this article, currently without access to the world, I can’t help but wonder how you will read it.

About the author

Nurcan Baysal is a Kurdish author who has published numerous books and articles about Turkey’s Kurdish issue.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

 

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Turkey’s Parliament: Democracy Dies in “Palace Coup”

Turkey’s HDP, civil society launch campaign against lifting immunities: “More than 250 civil society organizations (CSOs), professional chambers and associations have released a joint declaration against a government-led bill which would strip some parliamentarians of their immunity from prosecution, with the Kurdish-problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the main target of the bill, marking the declaration as a starter for a campaign against “the palace’s coup.”

Fight breaks out in Turkish Parliament as discussion over stripping MPs of immunity, May 3, 2016. Image via Twitter.

Fight breaks out in Turkish Parliament as discussion over stripping MPs of immunity, May 3, 2016. Image via Twitter.

The following letter was published by the HDP co-chairs, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, following the volatile debate in parliament that dissolved into fist fights and brawling. It appears to have been released on or after May 5, 2016.

Turkey is rapidly moving away from democracy and the rule of law due to President Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s increasing authoritarian policies – particularly with respect to the Kurdish issue. At multiple platforms we have expressed grave concerns that such antidemocratic policies are dragging the country into political violence, social polarization, and socio-economic instability. We have also emphasized that the only way out of these circumstances is to resume the peace process with the Kurdish movement and broaden the field of democratic politics. Unfortunately, Turkey is moving full force in the opposite direction despite ongoing negotiations for accession to the EU.

Turkey’s already weak parliamentary democracy is under a new totalitarian attack. President Erdoğan and the AKP government have virtually subordinated the Turkish judiciary to the executive by several governmental and legal interventions over the past two years. Now, a recent motion by the government to lift legislative immunity seeks to oust political opposition from the parliament. If passed, this motion would suspend Article 83 of the Constitution, which guarantees parliamentary immunity, through addition of a provisional clause. Lifting parliamentary immunity with such an anti-Constitutional move would extend Erdoğan-AKP bloc’s monopolistic grip to the legislative body.

We view this motion as a political coup attempt to completely destroy the separation of powers by subordinating the legislative to the executive and leaving the former to the mercy of a thoroughly politicized and biased judiciary. If successful, this coup would be a most crucial step for Erdoğan to replace Turkey’s parliamentary democracy, which he has twice declared “de facto over,” with an absolutist presidential system in which the legislative, executive and judiciary powers are virtually monopolized by the President himself.

As of April 21, 2016, the summaries of court proceedings of 131 deputies had been sent to the parliament. If the AKP’s motion passes, these deputies will lose their immunity. Of these, 26 are AKP deputies, 51 are Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies, 46 are Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies, 7 are Nationalist Action Party (MHP) deputies, and 1 is an independent deputy. The AKP government represents the mixed profile of these deputies as proof of the non-partisan intention of the motion. This is simply a pretense.

What this motion seeks to destroy is the HDP opposition in the parliament. Despite the antidemocratic %10 election threshold, mass arrest and imprisonment of thousands of our party executives, members and electorate, hundreds of physical attacks on our offices, and constant criminalization and scapegoating, the Erdoğan-AKP bloc failed to prevent us from entering the parliament in the elections on June 7th and November 1st, 2015. Lifting our immunity is their latest move to exclude the HDP from the parliament. In fact, in his many public statements regarding the motion, President Erdoğan did single out HDP deputies and criminalized us as “supporters of terrorism” with groundless accusations.

The HDP is a progressive party established by Kurdish political opposition and other under-represented ethno-religious populations, women, labor and ecologist/environmentalist groups who came together around values of pluralist democracy, peace, justice and equality. Conceiving the repression of Kurdish people’s cultural and political rights as a systemic problem of the monolithic nation-state formation in Turkey, we uphold an integrated approach to the struggle for equality and freedom of all repressed sectors of Turkey’s populace. The profile of our parliamentary group, including Kurdish, Turkish, Armenian, Syriac, Alevite and Ezidi representatives as well as democrat Muslims, women, labor and ecological activists, reflects clearly our democratic political commitments.

As per parliamentary immunity, we demand its Constitutional restriction to chair immunity. We have already submitted a motion regarding this to the parliament. We believe that everybody should be treated equally before the law. Limiting parliamentary immunity with chair immunity would guarantee free and democratic debate in the parliament while preventing the abuse of parliamentary immunity for unlawful advancement of personal, familial or small group interests.

Let us remind you that the revocation of parliamentary immunity and imprisonment of Democracy Party’s (DEP) Kurdish deputies in 1994 under the pretext of “fighting terror” was both a symptom and facilitator of one of the most violent periods of the Kurdish conflict in Turkey. In the totalitarian turn that Turkish political system has recently taken, wherein anybody critical of the Erdoğan-AKP bloc is labeled as a “terrorist” or “supporter of terrorism,” the closure of parliamentary representation to political opposition will render Kurds and other marginalized peoples of Turkey even more vulnerable to grave forms of state violence and repression. As it is, the tutelage of the executive over the judiciary emboldened President Erdoğan to even demand revoking the citizenship of his political critics ranging from HDP deputies and elected Kurdish mayors to journalists, pro-peace academics and social media users. Lest the parliament is brought under the control of the executive, we suspect Erdoğan’s next move would be to demand “a state without citizens.”

The HDP will continue its decisive struggle against authoritarian policies that the Erdoğan- AKP bloc carries out to annihilate democratic life in Turkey. Given the injustices in court cases against journalists, academics, elected Kurdish mayors or the citizens alleged to have “insulted the President,” we do not expect the courts, which are under heavy control of President Erdoğan, to deliver justice to our deputies. We will not surrender to authoritarianism and will continue our democratic struggle against all kinds of tyrannies.

In this critical conjuncture for Turkey’s democracy and a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish conflict, we invite all persons and institutions embracing universal democratic values to take immediate and concrete action, strongly raise their voice, and stand in solidarity with our struggle against the intended political coup against the parliament and the HDP.

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Missed Chance to ‘End Dictatorship’ as Erdoğan Claims Victory in Turkey

“I’m horrified,” said one young voter in Instanbul. “I don’t want to live in this country anymore because I don’t know what is awaiting us.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-1-2015

Photo via Twitter

Photo via Twitter

Amid the backdrop of intensifying war in neighboring Syria and increasing political tensions internally, voters in Turkey devastated the hopes of moderate and progressive reformers—some of whom clashed with riot police on Sunday—as news spread the nation’s much-maligned rightwing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had reclaimed power as his Justice and Development Party (AKP) had received enough support to re-establish single-party control over the government.

As the Guardian reports:

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‘Mourning and Rebellion’: Unions, Opposition Strike and March in Wake of Deadly Bombing in Turkey

‘We are in mourning, we are in protest, we are on strike.’

By Sarah Lazare, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-12-2015

Photo via Iconosquare

Photo via Iconosquare

As anger and suspicion towards the Turkish government mounts in the wake of a deadly bomb attack over the weekend, the country’s largest labor union and the left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) launched a nationwide strike on Monday to “protest the fascist massacre and to commemorate the death of our friends.”

From the University Medical Hospital in Istanbul to the main square in Adana, located in the country’s south—workers, students, and pro-Kurdish campaigners staged mass protests and pickets across the country, in the first of a two-day general strike. Employees of the municipality of Maltepe walked joined in the work stoppage, holding signs that read, “We are in mourning, we are in protest, we are on strike.” Continue reading

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Cizre cries for help: “Turkey’s Kobane” under siege

As the conflict in Turkey spirals out of control, dozens of people have reportedly been killed in Cizre and the army shows no signs of lifting the siege.

Written by Joris Leverink. Published by ROAR on Friday, September 11, 2015.

Photo by Sertaç Kayar, showing HDP-deputy Osman Baydemir scuffling with riot police on the road to Cizre.

Photo by Sertaç Kayar, showing HDP-deputy Osman Baydemir scuffling with riot police on the road to Cizre.

Tanks shelling the city center. No-one allowed in or out. Electricity and water have been cut, as well as phone lines and internet access. The people have dug trenches to stop armored vehicles from entering their neighborhoods and have hung sheets in the streets to prevent being seen and shot by snipers.

While the above reads as a report from Kobane, from when the Syrian town was still under attack from the so-called Islamic State (IS), it is in fact a description of the current situation in Cizre, a predominantly Kurdish town in southern Turkey.

Cizre under attack

Since the Turkish government imposed a curfew in Cizre last week, its citizens have been forced to remain indoors, risking being shot by snipers as soon as they step out. The city is under total lock down, which means that for at least a week people have had no access to fresh food or water, medical services, or anything else for that matter. Even the wounded are not allowed to be transported to the hospitals, as a result of which a number of civilians have died from non-lethal injuries due to blood loss and infections, among them a baby of less than two months old.

Due to limited phone and internet access in Cizre news from the besieged town reaches the outside world only piecemeal, meaning that reports of what is going on inside the town are difficult to confirm – a very worrying sign in and of itself.

In order to break the siege – and the silence – the co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş has been leading a march in an attempt to reach the town on foot. At several instances this march was blocked by the police upon orders of the Minister of Interior Selami Altinok of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who has argued that the HDP lawmakers are not allowed to enter the town “for their own security.”

While trying to circumvent the police blockades on the roads leading into town by following small trails through the fields and mountains, the HDP co-leader suggested that Cizre was being punished for voting “84 percent for the HDP” during the last elections in June. Demirtaş called Cizre “Turkey’s Kobane”, comparing the plight of the town and the resistance of its citizens to the Syrian Kurdish town when it was under attack from IS.

“In Cizre, 120,000 people have been held hostage by the state for a week,” he added. “They put ice on the corpses to stop them putrefying, because burials are banned.”

One of the most heart-breaking stories spoke of the young girl Cemile Çağırga, who was reportedly shot by the police in front of her house – under what circumstances remains unknown. After succumbing to her injuries her family was unable to transfer her body to the morgue due to the curfew and the threat of being targeted by snipers and artillery. For several days Cemile’s body was kept in a fridge in the family’s home before the young girl could be buried.

Violence spiraling out of control

The siege of Cizre occurs at a time when the recent upsurge in violence in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region appears to be spiraling out of control. An ambush by the Kurdish guerrillas of the PKK on a military convoy left at least 16 soldiers dead – or so the state media reported – followed two days later by another deadly attack on a police van, killing another 11 officers.

In response to these attacks nationalist groups around the country took to the streets en masse. In many cases these marches started as protests to show their indignation and anger, but they quickly turned into lynch-mobs targeting Kurdish neighborhoods, shops and individuals. A nationalist mob marching through a downtown Istanbul neighborhood was heard chanting “We don’t want a [military] operation, we want a massacre!”

Offices of the HDP were a popular target of the masses brandishing Turkish flags, hands held high up in the air making the “sign of the wolf” – a gesture emblematic of an ultra-nationalist organization called the Grey Wolves, which has been accused of countless racist and xenophobic attacks on Armenians, Kurds, Syrians and even Pope John Paul II. After two nights of attacks around 130 of the party’s offices were left destroyed or burned, windows broken and party signs torn down or covered with Turkish flags.

The HDP is perceived by many nationalist Turks as the political wing of the PKK, and as such as a terrorist organization in and of itself. The party’s historical success in the June elections, when it collected an unprecedented 13 percent of the vote and was able to send 80 delegates to the national parliament – the very first time a pro-Kurdish party entered Turkish parliament in the country’s history – angered many nationalists and AKP supporters alike.

Nationalists – represented in parliament by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – fretted about seeing what they perceived as “Kurdish terrorists” inside the parliament; and AKP supporters saw their dream of Erdogan being installed as the 21st century Sultan shattered when the party lost its absolute majority.

Both parties have reasons aplenty to be wary of HDP’s success. Another Kurdish victory in the upcoming November elections would seriously curb their aspirations to see their respective dreams of a Turkish utopia come to pass: an ethnically-pure country free of Armenians, Kurds, Greeks and Arabs in the case of the MHP; and a revived sultanate under the “auspicious” leadership of Erdogan in the case of the AKP.

The upsurge of violence in the east should be analyzed in light of the national elections of November. Plunging the country into war immediately after the coalition talks have broken down serves two purposes. First, it attempts to show that without the AKP at the wheel, the country is ‘doomed to disintegrate into chaos and violence’. Second, the escalation of violence is encouraged because of the belief that in times of crises people turn towards a strong leader who promises to restore peace and tranquillity — if only the people would grant him exceptional powers to do so.

A cry for solidarity

And while the party leaders cook up their plans to restore their power, its once again the ordinary people that suffer most; the mother who was shot by a sniper while holding her new-born baby in her arms; the young boy who got bored of sitting indoors days on end and decided to sneak outside for a quick peak, and got shot; the seven children who had to cover their mother’s dead body with bottles of frozen water to stop the body from decomposing because she couldn’t be buried after she was shot to death.

The siege of Cizre continues in a blatant violation of all morals and values that are supposed to determine the actions of a “democratic country.” It is outrageous that Turkey, especially as a NATO-member state, is allowed to target its own citizens, torturing them collectively in the name of ‘securitization’ and ‘fighting terrorism’.

In the case of Kobane the collective outcry of the international solidarity movement made the city’s plight impossible to be ignored. Let’s draw our lessons from this experience and raise our voices in solidarity with the people of Cizre, Silopi, Sirnak, Yüksekova, Sur and all those other towns, neighborhoods and villages that are being punished for demanding freedom, tortured for refusing to give in, arrested for simply being Kurdish and shot on the streets for daring to venture out of their homes.

Cizre is not alone, and it’s about time we’d let the world know.

Joris Leverink is an Istanbul-based freelance journalist, editor for ROAR Magazine and columnist for TeleSUR English.

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Turkey: Erdoğan is forcing his people to take sides

Turkey: Erdoğan is forcing his people to take sides

Bahar Baser, Coventry University and Ahmet Erdi Öztürk, University of Ljubljana

Up in arms. Reuters/Murad Sezer

Ever since the June 2015 elections, which thwarted the proposed presidential system that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long craved, Turkey has been hurtling into one of its most turbulent periods in decades. And with a snap election called for November 2015, the country’s political factions are facing off in an ever more violent and bitter fashion.

Polarisation has been a problem for Turkey for a long time: right versus left, Kurd versus Turk, Alevi versus Sunni, secular versus non-secular. But now, the division between supporters of the AKP – Erdoğan’s party – and their rivals has become one of the country’s biggest fissures.

All against all

As the country grapples with the threat of Islamic State just across the Syrian border, Turkey’s low-intensity civil war has been ramped up again with the Kurdish PKK mounting attacks on security personnel and the state responding with violence of its own. Recent fighting has claimed the lives of more than 60 military personnel, 400 PKK fighters and a considerable number of civilians, who are treated as casualties of war.

The so-called peace process has entirely stalled, although it’s debatable whether it was really going anywhere in the first place. Restrictions on movement in eight provinces have been introduced, raising fears that the state will enact “emergency laws” to allow a heavy crackdown. A district of Diyarbakir called Silvan was attacked by the Turkish military in mid-August; it was seriously damaged, and many residents had to flee to survive. Kurdish people are forced to live in an environment of insecurity as if they are being punished for not voting for the AKP, which also meant Erdogan’s way to the presidential system.

On the Kurdish side, the leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, Selahattin Demirtaş, has called on the PKK to end its violence, but everyday funerals are being held for Turkish soldiers killed during clashes with the PKK. These funerals have become a way for Turkish voters to show their rage not only at the PKK for its attacks, but also at the AKP and its MPs for putting their countrymen in harm’s way.

At the funeral for his brother, who was killed in a PKK attack, Lieutenant Colonel Mehmet Alkan demanded: “Who is his murderer? Who is responsible for this? Why are those who were saying ‘peace process’ before now demanding ‘war till the end’ right now?”

Alkan was a lieutenant colonel in the Turkish army, and spent a good part of his life protecting Turkey’s territorial integrity against the PKK. His anger was directed at the government, and at its representatives at the funeral who were trying to make election propaganda of his brother’s death.

The cynicism around the civil war has reached the point where no side can even mourn its dead without being exploited for political ends.

Alkan soon found out the hard way what happens to those who speak out. Immediately after his tirade was reported, pro-AKP Twitter users began smearing him as a member of one or all of the groups designated as enemies of the Turkish state: the Alevists, the pro-Kurdish HDP, and the Hizmet Movement – a huge transnational Islamic movement some regard as a parallel state.

More chaos, more votes?

This sorry state of affairs is not just an unfortunate collision of circumstances. It has been nourished by the current AKP government, which was put in a corner by the HDP’s biggest-ever electoral haul and entry into parliament.

It is now trying desperately to gather the nationalist and conservative votes it needs to win its longed-for parliamentary majority. The AKP’s calculation appears to be that more chaos will mean more votes, with people turning to the devil they know in hope of stability.

The aftermath of clashes in Silvan, near Diyarbakir. Reuters/Sertac Kayar

On the face of it, the latest PKK-Turkish army clashes have driven many groups on both sides back into their traditional corners. But things are changing as well – and it is clear that many Turkish voters are anything but won over by this new strategy. And the public’s reaction to the deliberately contrived chaos has so far defied the AKP’s expectations.

People all over Turkey are now questioning what intentions lie behind the resurgent violence. Kurds have always been suspicious, but this is new to the Turkish population at large. While polarisation and unrest are in themselves hardly new to Turkey, the current division of Turkish political and social life is more intense than it has been for decades.

As HDP MP Gülten Kışanak recently mentioned, this is a very different era. In the 1990s political killings were executed in secret, and violence was covert; nowadays, they are carried out without any shame or pretence.

In this deeply polarised climate, the obvious reaction is to take sides. That’s exactly what the AKP wants Turks to do, and it’s highly dangerous. It not only harshens the tone of political discourse; it exacerbates all the deeper, long-existing divisions that undermine Turkish civil society.

The run-up to the snap election will be a very dangerous time not only for the HDP, but for all opposition groups, who must now mount election campaigns in a deliberately cultivated environment of violence and fear. To be sure, this began a long time ago – the HDP’s party buildings were constantly coming under attack even before the June elections – but it is getting substantially worse.

As things stand, Turkey offers no promise of a better future to any of its warring groups. And with the campaign for the newly declared elections already sinking into a factional brawl, the signs are ominous indeed.

The Conversation

Bahar Baser is Research Fellow at Coventry University and Ahmet Erdi Öztürk is PhD Candidate/Research Asistant at University of Ljubljana

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Death of a peace process: martial law returns to Turkey

Turkey has placed the Kurds and their struggle for human rights within a state of exception – outside the protections of due process of law.

By the International State Crime Initiative. Published 8-29-2015 on openDemocracy

Kurdish women pleading with a Turkish soldier.

Kurdish women pleading with a Turkish soldier.

The Kurdish peace process is over and a huge wave of violence has started in Turkey’s south-east.  The violence follows the killing of 33 Kurds in the Suruc bombing and the subsequent murders of two policemen in nearby Viransehir. Many fear that what is happening in Kurdish region of Turkey now is a return to the 1990s which were marked by widespread violence and state crimes. In this period much of Turkey’s south-east became what Agamben has described as a state of exception: martial law became normalised during the 1990s and the Kurdish region experienced intensely high levels of state crime including village destruction, massacres, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, mass forced displacement and endemic torture.

 

It seems that the nature of the Turkish state in relation to its Kurdish minority has not changed since the dark days of the 1990s – the inherited fear of Kurdish separatism and the Kurds themselves remains. We prefer to call it Kurdophobia, given that for 15 years the leaders of the Kurdish movement have made clear their demands are not for a separate nation but instead for equal citizenship in a democratic state.

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What next in Turkey?

Turkey’s election result is a tribute to its vibrant democracy. But there are hard political and economic tests to come.

Written by Dimitar Bechev and Nathalie Tocci. Published 6-9-15 in OpenDemocracy.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, image via internet blogspot

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, image via internet blogspot

At the peak of the protests of May-June 2013 in Turkey, spurred by plans to transform Gezi park in central Istanbul, the country’s then president, Abdullah Gül, made a statement that would go down in political folklore: “Democracy does not consist only of the ballot-box” (“Demokrasi sandıktan ibaret değildir“). He had a point: a democracy worthy of the name is also about other things – the rights of minorities, freedom of speech and association, the rule of law, transparency and accountability – all of them in scarce supply in Turkey, both historically and in more recent days.

Yet, the parliamentary polls on 7 June 2015 are also a strong reminder that the ballot-box can actually be the most robust safeguard of democratic governance. Free and fair elections alone may not suffice. But when a polity, which has experienced multi-party democracy for over half a century, casts its vote, it can help put back on track a process of political transformation gone astray.

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