During raids in a number of Turkish cities over the past week, around 100 people, including members of the pro-Kurdish DTP, were arrested for alleged ties to the separatist PKK. Officials said the raids and arrests were the culmination of a year-long investigation into the PKK’s "urban extensions," but many alleged that they could be closely related to an ongoing closure case against the DTP in the country’s top court. The party also criticized the operations, saying the police crackdown was a government act of revenge against the party after it defeated the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in predominantly Kurdish southeastern cities in last month’s local elections.
The DTP is frequently accused of being a front for the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, and faces closure by the Constitutional Court for alleged ties to terrorists.
Several intellectuals and analysts, however, say the arrested were not carried out to strengthen the hand of prosecutors in the closure case and say the operations are free of any political motive.
"I don’t think the police crackdowns on the PKK are aimed at providing more evidence in the closure case as to the links between the terrorist organization and the Kurdish party. Anyways, it is not necessary to garner more evidence to prove the links between the PKK and the DTP. The DTP frequently makes public its organic ties to the terrorist group. However, it would be wrong to shut down the DTP.
Turkey should not disband this party even though it clearly has ties to the separatist organization," stated Mehmet Metiner, a columnist for the Star daily.
On Nov. 16, 2007, Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçinkaya filed a closure case against the DTP, Turkey’s only legal Kurdish party, which is represented in Parliament, for being the "focal point of separatist acts" and for "alleged ties to the PKK." The case is still under deliberation at the top court.
Ümit Firat, a Kurdish intellectual, said prosecutors would not need more evidence to have the DTP shut down. "The indictment in the DTP closure case covers adequate evidence about the DTP’s ties with the separatist PKK. Moreover, prosecutors would find a satisfactory amount of evidence for the closure of any political party with no need for a police crackdown in the party’s branches. To me, the recent operations directly aim to crack down on the PKK, but not the DTP," he remarked.
Firat also added that he was not surprised to see DTP members detained and arrested as part of the ongoing operations due to the party’s well-known links to the terrorist organization. "In such operations, it is not surprising to see the raids include groups that have close ties with the target of the operation. The ongoing investigation into Ergenekon [a clandestine criminal organization charged with plotting to topple the government], for example, extends to groups suspected to have ties with the organization. Thus, the recent operation is aimed at dealing a blow to the PKK, but inevitably, extends to the DTP," he noted.
In the meantime, the sweeping detentions against Kurdish politicians and suspected PKK supporters were met with protests in southeastern Turkey. Shopkeepers in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the region, did not open their businesses on Friday in protest against the detentions.
‘DTP should remain open and distance itself from violence’
The intellectuals also stated that the pro-Kurdish party should remain open despite its evident ties to the terrorist organization and urged the party to distance itself from acts of violence.
"The DTP is doing its best to have itself shut down. In this way, it will be justified to resort to acts of violence. Turkey, however, should not disband this party and should urge it to continue its struggle in the political arena. Existing laws in the country suggest that the DTP should be closed as the party frequently associates itself with violence. Turkey should not provide the DTP with such a trump card," stated Metiner.
Turkey’s 25-year fight against the separatist PKK has cost the lives of around 40,000 people and weighs heavily on the country’s political and economic development.