01/04/2008, 00.00
TURKEY
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Blast in Diyarbakir further stokes the Kurdish Question

by Mavi Zambak
Bomb blast is blamed on the PKK which has not however claimed responsibility. A new chapter of violence opens between Kurdish separatists and the Turkish military as the political stalemate continues.

Ankara (AsiaNews) – Turkish police have arrested four people in connection with a car bomb that killed five people and injured 68 in Diyarbakir, the predominantly Kurdish city of a million in south-eastern Turkey. Among the dead four were students. The target of the attack though was a shuttle bus carrying military personnel home. The Public Prosecutor's Office responded by giving police forces the “unlimited power to search” for 16 days. Law enforcement officers can now search homes, offices and vehicles without a mandate.

This attack is not the first of its kind in Diyarbakir, a city that has become a symbol for Kurds. But as usual almost immediately after the blast the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) founded by Abdullah Öcalan was blamed for the incident. The Kurdish organisation has not however claimed responsibility for the attack.

No matter who is behind the latest bloodshed, there seems to be no end to the cycle of violence which has plagued Turkey for over 20 years and which the government thought it had settled with its air raids in northern Iraq carried out in the hope of routing Kurdish guerrillas once and for all.

As wrong-headed this strategy may be, it momentarily placated Turkey’s population, but had the effect of exacerbating Kurdish rage and resolve. And so the armed struggle goes on.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan said that tomorrow he would go to Diyarbakir to see for himself how serious the situation was as well as meet and encourage the wounded and the relatives of the dead, but very few people believe that his intervention can bear any fruit.

His speech in Diyarbakir two years ago is well remembered. At that time he acknowledged that there was a “Kurdish Question” and that the Turkish state had made mistakes in the past. On that occasion he stressed the need to end discrimination against the Kurdish population and promised investments in health care and education for the south-eastern region of the country, pledging also that his government would not back-pedal on the issue of Turkey’s democratisation. At the time everyone praised him, hopeful that things might change.

Some services have indeed improved since then but no global strategy has been presented in terms of democracy and human rights. Similarly, no serious intention has been shown in favour of any truly peaceful political dialogue.

Instead last month Turkish fighter planes entered Iraqi territory and bombed PKK bases in the Kandil Mountains. When the Turkish military command cried victory (“We laid waste to PKK bases,” it said) everyone rejoiced. The mass media celebrated the event showing time and time again photos and shots of the planes and the military operations, all in a highly congratulatory mood for the high tech military gizmos used and the operation’s surgeon-like precision.

Whilst all this was going on, Turkey’s courts were hard at work trying to ban the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) which won 22 seats in the 22 July 2007 elections with more than 10 per cent of the vote. In parliament an attempt to revoke the parliamentary immunity of three of its lawmakers was also progressing as the DTP chairman, Nurettin Demitas, continued to languish in jail after being arrested in mid-December at Ankara airport after a visit to Germany for allegedly faking a medical certificate to avoid military service.

Where will all of this lead? That is the million dollar question.

With the latest attack the army feels even more justified in its hunt for PKK fighters, backed perhaps by the United States.

The Public Prosecutor's Office is likely to find more reasons for banning the pro-Kurdish party and show that it “engaged in actions that threatened national unity and the independence of the state.”

But in many quarters people are increasingly aware that such steps can only serve those who think that violence is the only way.

As prime minister and president slam the terrorists and reiterate their determination to pursue by all means available the fight against Kurdish guerrillas, many others, intellectuals but also retired generals, see the need for an amnesty that might convince the PKK to lay down its weapons and come down from the mountains.

Several times Erdoğan himself mentioned the possibility of a “Coming Home” bill. However, how can any such legislation work when once home “rebels” are packed off to prison?

In 2007 alone the conflict took the lives of 600 people. Shedding tears over the bodies of the dead or comforting the wounded and survivors is not enough. It is high time to take concrete political, economic and legal steps for a peaceful and lasting solution to a struggle that has stained in blood the Turkish republic since its inception.

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