The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Representative in the U.S., based in Washington, D.C., wrote the following on July 17.
The recent “Democratic Struggle for Freedom” demonstration organized by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and Democratic Society Congress (DTK) on July 14 in Diyarbakir (Amed), Turkey, was both banned and violently suppressed by Turkish security forces. Demonstrators had gathered to deliver a clear message to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that the Kurdish issue can only be solved through peaceful means and the restarting of negotiations with the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish political movement, Abdullah Ocalan. Turkish security forces confronted the peaceful demonstrators, detaining and injuring many, including Kurdish deputies from the National Assembly.
The Turkish government must put an end to the use of force if it sincerely wishes to solve the Kurdish issue. The ruling government AKP should take immediate steps to end the isolation of Ocalan and free him by initiating sincere peace talks to resolve the Kurdish issue. Negotiations between Ocalan and state officials stalled one year ago in the wake of the national elections in July 2011 in Turkey. Since then, Ocalan has been held under complete isolation without access to his lawyers. Furthermore, all of his lawyers were arrested, which is a complete violation of international agreements regarding the treatment of prisoners. The EU Commission and Council of Europe, as well as others in the international community, have criticized such treatment as a violation of fundamental liberties.
The steady rise in violent incidents in Turkey since July 2011 is a significant reason why peace talks are necessary more than ever before. Hundreds of soldiers and guerillas have lost their lives in violent clashes, and thousands of people have been affected adversely. Furthermore, the Turkish government has arrested over 8,000 Kurdish political activists, including elected deputies and mayors, human rights activists, attorneys, doctors, journalists, academics, students, and unionists. Rather than making most of the changing mindset in Turkish society with regards to the Kurdish issue by advancing a meaningful dialogue with the Kurdish political movement, the AKP government has, since July 2011, implemented a brutal security doctrine.
Renewed military operations in the Kurdish regions have resulted in many deaths and continue to threaten the livelihoods of millions of people. In December 2011, an air attack by the Turkish military resulted in the killing of 34 Kurdish civilians, most of them children, in the district of Uludere (Roboski) in Turkey. This attack was carried out under the auspices of the AKP and was reported in detail by the American mainstream media because of the use of U.S. drone intelligence.
The Turkish government has also taken a step backwards with regards to the Kurdish issue by preventing Kurds from freely expressing their cultural heritage. While the AKP claims it is making progress on Kurdish rights in Turkey, Kurdish people are still unable to express their identity without fear and intimidation. Just this year, the AKP implemented a ban on the Kurdish New Year, or Newroz, celebrations. In March 2012, Kurdish celebrators were met with violence by Turkish security forces and were forced to end their peaceful celebrations.
We, the BDP Representative Office in the U.S., strongly condemn the Turkish government’s use of disproportional force against the Kurdish people and their representatives including the co-presidents of our party, Selahattin Demirtas and Gultan Kisanak. The violent use of force by Turkish security forces on July 14 is yet another example of the authoritarian tendencies of the AKP government. We believe that the Kurdish conflict in Turkey can only be resolved through inclusive democratic practices that include dialogue and negotiations with Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdish political movement. Talks and negotiations between Turkish state authorities and Abdullah Ocalan should be restarted in order for a lasting peace to prevail. Peace talks and negotiations like those between ANC-Mandela and the South Africa government or IRA-Sinn Fein and the UK government should be a source of inspiration for Turkish government. These successful experiences were encouraged by the U.S. administration.
We urge the U.S. president, Congress and Senate, and the American civil society and media not to remain silent with regards to Turkey’s gross human rights record against the Kurdish people, and to encourage a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue that includes sincere peace talks with the arrested Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdish political movement.