Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Kurdistan- no peace without justice

Yesterday clashes between the Turkish Army and the main Kurdish rebel group (the Kurdish Workers Party or PKK) killed fifteen people. These were the latest deaths in a twenty-six year conflict that has killed more than forty-thousand. They also mark the continuation of a recent escalation in the conflict; one that has killed over one hundred and twenty Turkish soldiers and fifty Kurdish militants since March.

In response to the increasing violence Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to fight until the PKK is
annihilated. It is a strategy doomed to fail.

Conflicts across the world- from Northern Ireland to East Timor have shown that peace can only be achieved with justice. A recent Human Rights Watch
report on Turkish-occupied Kurdistan highlights repression of discussion on ‘the Kurdish issue’, police mistreatment of Kurdish activists and the detention of those protesting for rights in the region – scores of them children. Looking at these factors in conjunction with the banning of the Kurdish Democratic Society Party (which had held 21 parliamentary seats) by the Turkish Constitutional Court late last year, it is easy to understand the Kurds’ grievances.

Rather than throwing more military force at the PKK and increasing the cycle of violence Erdogan and his government should undermine support for armed rebellion by ensuring that Turkey’s Kurdish citizens are afforded human rights and freedoms. This doesn’t even need to mean full independence for Turkish-occupied Kurdistan, but affording greater level of autonomy and ending the repression would take away the incentive for young men and women to take up arms against the Turkish state. It’s a simple solution- but one that successive Turkish governments have failed to recognise.

Of course, such changes can only be realised in a reformed Turkish society- one where the army doesn’t hold sway over politics and where nationalism doesn’t stifle free speech. The conviction and murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist
Hrant Dink three years ago was reflective of a militant nationalist sentiment that still dominates Turkish politics today and consistently scuppers efforts to positively resolve the situation in Kurdistan.

If it isn’t laid to rest then attacks like yesterday’s will go on and on.

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