Turkey’s ‘Kurdish Opening’ Threatened by Party’s Closure

Turkey’s ‘Kurdish Opening’ Threatened by Party’s Closure

ISTANBUL -- The recent closing by Turkey's highest court of theDemocratic Society Party (DTP), the only pro-Kurdish party in theTurkish parliament, is being seen as a significant setback for thegovernment's newly launched "democratization initiative," a reformprogram aimed at solving Ankara's decades-old Kurdish problem.

Nineteen of the party's 21 parliamentarians can remain in parliament by changing their party affiliation. (The other two, the DTP's co-chairs, were banned from politics for five years.) But observers warn that the court's action could alienate Kurds politically, and lead to increased tension and an upsurge in violence in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast. That, in turn, would likely harden nationalist sentiment among both Turks and Kurds, leaving the government and its reform project stuck between Turkish nationalists on one side and Kurdish nationalists on the other.

The DTP -- the first pro-Kurdish party to serve in parliament since 1991 -- was the latest incarnation of a string of similar parties shut down by the Turkish courts, and the 25th political party to be banned in the country since 1962. In an 11-0 decision handed down on Dec. 11, Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled that the party had become a "focal point" for separatist activity and maintained links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

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