ISTANBUL — On December 11,Turkey’s Constitutional Court unani-mously (11-0) decided to close downthe Kurdish nationalist DemocraticSociety Party (DTP) and banned 37of its members from active politicsfor five years. Among these were thehighly respected and dovish party co-chairman, Ahmet Türk, and his previ-ous co-chairwoman, equally dovishAysel Tuğluk. Their memberships inParliament would thus be terminated.The court’s decision was made publicby Chief Justice Haşim Kılıç in a pressconference. According to Kılıç, DTPwas closed down because it had or-ganic links to the terrorist KurdistanWorkers’ Party (PKK), and because it violated two articles of the constitutionand two articles of the Political PartiesLaw by its actions. The court deemedthese actions as being supportive of terror and violence. Kılıç explainedthat the court took into considerationthe relevant decisions by the EuropeanCourt of Human Rights in the case of the Basque nationalist party, Herri Ba-tasuna. Türk and Tuğluk were bannedbecause of, among other things, callingthe PKK’s leader Abdullah Öcalan, “re-spectable Mr. Öcalan.”It was difficult not to be reminded of Agatha Christie’s
Murder on the Orient Express
.Although the Constitutional Courtwas the one that gave the final andfatal blow to the first phase of the“Kurdish opening” there were many who stabbed the victim numeroustimes as well. The government thatinitiated the process and then broughtit to an impasse by its ineptitude andmismanagement and arguably becauseof its lackluster devotion to a compre-hensive democratization project; theopposition parties that used harsh,polarizing, incendiary language,and scare tactics, and had neither aconstructive solution to the Kurdishproblem nor any commitment to amore liberal and democratic Turkey;the Kurdish nationalist DTP that couldnot take itself seriously as a politicalparty where the hawks nearly alwayswon against the doves, that alloweditself to be intimidated by its terror-ist confrere, the PKK, and that couldnot take a clear political distance from violence and terrorism; the PKKleadership that, once cognizant it wasto be sidelined and fearing eventualirrelevance, initiated a wave of vio-lence to provoke a harsh response andsecure the closure of DTP and thenfurther enraged the Turkish public by attacking troops in the north-centralAnatolian town of Tokat, killing sevenyoung soldiers; and last but not least,Abdullah Öcalan, an icon for many Kurds who is serving a life sentence inImrali Island and cares only about his
Kurdish Opening: Onto the Second Round
by Soli Ozel*
December 23, 2009
Soli Ozel teaches at Istanbul Bilgi University’s Department of International Relations and Political Science and is a columnist for theTurkish daily
. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the GermanMarshall Fund of the United States (GMF).
Summary: Turkey had two options:Wage war and send the militaryacross the border to northern Iraq,where the PKK made the Kandilmountain range their headquarters,or engage politically with Iraqi Kurdsand seek serious reform at home.There is enough blame to go aroundfor the failure of this initial stageof the opening. But the processshould not be and indeed cannotbe reversed. Now is the time to takestock, learn the appropriate lessons
from the failures of the rst phase,
and move forward.