Arrests, censorship against protests and Kurdish problem
Ankara (AsiaNews) - At least 86 Kurds are under arrest following numerous clashes yesterday, the tenth anniversary of the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, which took place on February 15, 1999. The founder and leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party, a separatist organization identified as a terrorist group by Europe and the United States) was sentenced to death for treason, but in 2002 his sentence was commuted to life in prison, and since then he has been held on the prison island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara.
Thousands of Kurds took to the streets in the southeast part of the country, to protest against his imprisonment and call for his release. The Kurds threw rocks at the armored vehicles of the police, who responded with tear gas and fire hoses. The clashes demonstrate the severe tension still in place between the Kurdish population and Ankara, in spite of the fact that the government is doing everything it can, by hook or by crook, to eliminate the "Kurdish problem" by wiping out the rebels or of integrating the civilians into Turkish culture. But a truly democratic solution is a long way off.The military option, and openness
On one level, in fact, since the military received parliamentary authorization (in 2007), there has been an uninterrupted operation by the Turkish air force in northern Iraq, to eliminate the logistical installations of the PKK from the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq. A number of raids have been carried out, and a total of 1,049 members of the PKK are believed to have been "neutralized" in less than two years. Last week, it was announced that 13 Kurdish rebels had been killed in Iraqi territory. On another level, together with the military efforts, the state is trying to reassure the Turkish population in the face of the daily threat of terrorism, with new gestures of openness. In early January of this year, it launched a new television channel for the Kurds - 20% of the Turkish population - in their own language, which had long been prohibited. Films, documentaries, music programs, news in Kurdish, 24 hours a day. For the inauguration of the nationwide channel Trt6, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself said a few words in Kurdish. But from the beginning, the initiative has been greeted with mistrust by Kurdish political leaders, who believe it is a move by the government to remove support from the DTP (Democratic Society Party), the only Kurdish party with legal recognition and seats in parliament.
The leading national cultural organizations have also called this "move" a "ruse," just another propaganda tool for the majority government of the Islamic party AKP, led by Erdogan. Administrative elections will be held at the end of March, and the opening of the new channel has been denounced as another attempt to "soften" Kurdish voters, in the hope of convincing them to vote for the AKP, support for which is plunging according to the latest surveys.Censorship
Many artists had enthusiastically welcomed the Turkish government's invitation to participate in the new television channel. But now they are having second thoughts, since in reality - as Kurdish artist Ozan Yusuf has charged - "it is not possible to say what you really think on Trt6." When he appeared on one program, he was even asked explicitly to avoid using certain terms, like "Amed" ("Diyarbakir" in Kurdish) and "Berfin" (flower), because these are used by political organizations. "Trt6," the artist observes bitterly, "is using us to keep alive the policy of assimilation that has always been carried forward in this country." In addition to this internal censorship, the even more serious form of public censorship also continues. Every day, Kurdish personalities are charged and forced to go to court for using their mother tongue. The president of the lawyers' guild in Diyarbakir is facing up to three years in prison for ordering schedules to be printed in both Turkish and Kurdish; a candidate to be mayor of Van, Bekir Kaya, is again on trial for using a banner displaying the word "Wan" ("Van" in Kurdish), and has been charged for delivering a campaign speech in Kurdish last January 28.
Many DTP members of parliament are on trial for using Kurdish in their campaign speeches and writings; the mayor of the district of Sur, Abdullah Demirbaş, was removed from his post in 2007 for distributing flyers written in Kurdish; a lawsuit is also underway against the current mayor of Diyarbakır, Osman Baydemir, for permitting the use of Kurdish on posters and publicity materials, and he has been prohibited from speaking to crowds. Various singers, writers, and journalists - but also ordinary citizens - have been sentenced for using the Kurdish language. The charge is always the same: "no language except for Kurdish can be used in electoral campaigns." This Turkish democracy is truly incomprehensible.