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 Turkey's Kurds face tough uphill in parliamentary comeback

 Source : AFP
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Turkey's Kurds face tough uphill in parliamentary comeback  24.7.2007 


July 24, 2007

DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of Turkey, --  Thirteen years after being kicked out of parliament, Turkey's Kurds staged a hard-won comeback in Sunday's election but their goal of reconciliation is made difficult by an upsurge in separatist violence.

"We want to turn a new page," a jubilant Aysel Tugluk, one of the 24 Kurdish politicians who won parliamentary seats according to unofficial results, said overnight in Diyarbakir, the central city of the mainly Kurdish southeast.

"We want to start a process of dialogue and reconciliation in parliament to resolve the (Kurdish) problem," she said, adding: "We will not be a source of tension... We will act in a spirit of tolerance and understanding."

Beating drums and chanting pro-Kurdish slogans, crowds of people celebrated across the southeast overnight as the results of the vote emerged.

"Ankara, here we come," they shouted.

The Kurdish candidates campaigned for a peaceful end to the bloody 23-year conflict in the southeast, calling on Ankara to abandon the military option against the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and broaden Kurdish freedoms.

But no warm welcome awaits them in Ankara, where their Democratic Society Party (DTP), is widely suspected of being a PKK tool aimed at advancing separatist ambitions.

The DTP has fuelled the mistrust by refusing to condemn the PKK as a terrorist group, a label endorsed by the European Union and the United States, among others.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip said bluntly last week that "the DTP will remain under suspicion as long as it does not condemn the PKK as a terrorist organisation."

The PKK stepped up violence this year, sending Turkish nationalist sentiment into a frenzy and prompting calls for a military incursion into neighbouring northern Iraq, where the rebels have hideouts.

The resurgence in PKK violence was seen as one of the main factors that brought the far-right Nationalist Action Party back into parliament in Sunday's election after a five-year absence.

The line-up of the winning Kurdish candidates includes at least two militant lawyers of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, including Tugluk, who have been accused of acting as conduits between the rebel chief and his troops.

Also headed for parliament is a woman activist currently jailed in Istanbul awaiting trial for alleged links to the PKK.

The DTP denies any links with the PKK, but members privately admit that the rebels have influence over the party.

It wants amnesty for the PKK while Ankara insists the rebels should surrender.

The DTP members contested the polls as independents to circumvent a 10-percent national threshold that has kept Kurdish parties outside parliament.

They are now expected to re-group under the DTP banner once they are sworn in.

The first stint in parliament of Kurdish politicians campaigning for minority rights ended in disaster in 1994, when their immunity was lifted on charges of aiding the PKK.

Some of them, including human rights award winner Leyla Zana, were jailed; others went into exile and one joined the PKK.

Since then, Turkey, under EU pressure, has granted the Kurdish minority a measure of cultural freedom and lifted emergency rule in the southeast.

Kurds, however, still complain of discrimination and ask for Kurdish to be taught in schools and used in all fields of public life.

Rampant poverty also remains a major problem in the southeast.

Copyright , respective author or news agency, AFP        


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