Closing largest Kurdish party DTP, Turkey could stall reform efforts
Turkey's closing of the largest Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), has sparked deadly riots and could stall these reform efforts. Turkey had recently introduced a reform package friendly to its restive Kurdish minority.
The government's introduction in recent months of a political reform package has increased hope that Turkey is on its way to finally implementing a civilian – rather than military – solution to its decades-long Kurdish problem, one that has cost an estimated 40,000 lives since 1984 and has stood as a roadblock along Turkey's road to democratization.Skip to next paragraph
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But now there are growing concerns that the new reform effort could be undermined by the closing of the country’s largest pro-Kurdish political party and increasing tension in its predominantly-Kurdish southeast region. On Tuesday, two more people were killed in riots that first erupted on Friday when Turkey’s Constitutional Court voted unanimously to shut down the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the only pro-Kurdish group in parliament, accusing it of engaging in separatist activity and supporting the PKK. The government today hastily convened a meeting to plan a roadmap to resolve the unrest.
Observers worry that an upsurge in violence could harden nationalist sentiments among both Turks and Kurds, leaving the government stuck between Turkish nationalists on one side and Kurdish nationalists on the other.
There is also concern that a growing stand-off between Turkish and Kurdish nationalists and an increase in ethnic tensions in Turkey’s restive southeast could strengthen the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which Ankara, the US, and the European Union consider a terrorist organization.
Analysts warn, meanwhile, that the party’s closure will only work to undermine the development of a moderate Kurdish political movement in Turkey.
“It was such a mistake to close down these Kurdish parties in the past. Had they not been closed down, they would have become much stronger than the armed wing of the Kurdish movement. But what we have here now is the opposite,” says Sahin Alpay, a professor of political science at Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University.
Closing DTP tests commitment to Kurdish-friendly reforms
The court’s decision comes only a few weeks after the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) formally announced in parliament its “democratization initiative” – a raft of reforms designed to give Turkey’s Kurds increased political and cultural rights. Among the planned changes are the easing of restrictions on private Kurdish-language television stations and Kurdish language faculties in universities, as well as allowing towns and villages to once again use their original Kurdish names.
But observers warn the closing of the DTP will put the government’s plan to the test.