chapter  1
26 Pages

The role of the judicial system in the politicide of the Kurdish opposition

ByDERYA BAYIR

Since the arrest of Abdullah Öcalan, the Kurdistan Workers Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK) changed its political methods and encouraged civil disobedience within society in order to achieve de facto recognition for the Kurds’ cultural, linguistic, and political demands. The PKK also began to articulate its desire to find a legal space in Turkish politics for its cadres and for its political claims for the Kurds in Turkey. These events have brought the Kurdish question to a turning point. The dilemma for the Turkish state is whether to accommodate these demands, which would lead to radical legal and political changes, or to reject them, which perhaps would result in the continuation of bloodshed in the country. Except for the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP), mainstream politics in Turkey has also been quite unresponsive to the PKK’s demands. While the AKP has maintained some positive developments as de facto practices, it has failed to convert them into de jure guarantees, which could have secured the democratic rights and the cultural and linguistic demands of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. The AKP’s response so far remains problematic because of its inconsistent,1 trivial, and highly Turkish-Islamist ideological nature. The AKP entered into Turkish political life in 2001. In its earlier years in

politics, its pro-democracy, pro-human rights, pro-EU, and anti-military and anti-status-quo discourse created hopes for the Kurdish question among many from different parts of the spectrum of Turkish politics.2 It would perhaps be unjust not to credit the AKP with the changes Turkey has gone through during their period in government. However, particularly in recent years, its more authoritarian (Laçiner 2011) and Turkish nationalist discourse on the Kurdish question, together with its ambition of social engineering according to its Islamic-conservative worldview, has begun to attract criticism. The AKP’s response to the PKK’s demands has revolved around some lim-

ited reforms regarding the Kurds’ linguistic rights and some attempts at negotiation (e.g., the Habur incident of 2009, the Oslo meeting, and the new talks with Öcalan in 2013, about which not much is known). These can be contrasted with the AKP’s specifically legal, de jure responses to those demands

over its decade-long period in government. Within the legal field, a position of intolerance towards Kurdish political claims makes for a different and more confusing picture of the AKP’s intentions. The legal responses to the PKK’s claims throughout the 2000s include criminalizing civil disobedience campaigns in support of Kurdish ethno-cultural and political claims, suppressing the Kurdish political opposition through the closure of the Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi, DTP) by the Constitutional Court (Anayasa Mahkemesi, AYM), and, since 2009, mass arrests of members and supporters of the Peace and Democracy Party (Barıs¸ ve Demokrasi Partisi, BDP) as part of the Union of Kurdistan Communities (Koma Civakên Kurdistan, KCK) investigations and the ensuing trials. These show that the legal system remains inclined to preserve the existing hegemony in the country.3