Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Turkey: Democracy is “Unresolved,” “Not Yet Consolidated”
October 18th, 2010 by Anna
James Traub writes
in Foreign Policy that Turkey’s democracy remains “unresolved” eight years Erdogan came to power. The AKP’s commitment to the rule of law and minority rights is doubted by some secular Turks, who also fear that the country is becoming more conservative (the country’s
Higher Education Board’s recent decision to stop teachers from expelling women wearing headscarves from classrooms may
suggest otherwise, however). The recent constitutional referendum, moreover, is viewed by some as “a dangerous ploy by the AKP to increase its control over the state.” These ongoing debates – about national policy and about identity – illustrate that “Turkey’s democracy is not yet ‘consolidated,’” Traub writes.
The Kurdish role in Turkish politics and society is highlighted today as the trial of 151 pro-Kurdish politicians and activists begins. Reuters reports that the process could take months. The defendants are charged with joining and spreading the propaganda of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) which prosecutors say is a branch of the PKK, as well as unlawfully demonstrating.
POMED Notes: “Is Turkey Becoming Less Democratic?”
September 13th, 2010 by Anna
On Monday, September 13th, POMED hosted an event entitled “Is Turkey Becoming Less Democratic?” The event was moderated by Bill Schneider, Distinguished Senior Fellow and Resident Scholar at Third Way and the Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University. The discussion featured three panelists: Gonul Tol, Executive Director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute; Daniel Brumberg, Director of the Muslim World Initiative at the U.S. Institute of Peace; and W. Robert Pearson, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and President of the International Research and Exchanges Board.
POMED’s full notes continue below or read
them as a pdf.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Judiciary, Kurds, PKK, Political Islam, Political Parties, Reform, Secularism, Turkey | Comment »
Turkey: Resolving the Kurdish Issue Through Democracy
September 10th, 2010 by Anna
, Director of Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute, wrote at Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel yesterday that the Kurdish issue in Turkey “is primarily an issue of democracy and should therefore be resolved through democratic means.” The PKK has become an actor in national politics, not solely an insurgent group – as such, matters of equality, minority rights, and rule of law must be approached through democratic channels. Tol asserts that “this requires a new constitution.” In addition, leaders must shift away from thinking about the Kurdish issue in military and security terms and acknowledge that it is really a political problem. Tol commends the broadening of the public debate in Turkey to include issues about cultural rights and education, and points out that Kurds have “come to understand that…change will come through effective use of democratic means – not violence.” She also notes that Kurdish civil society has been growing, and that the PKK has pursued political paths in the resolution of the conflict.
Tol cautions, however, that “a few cosmetic changes” will not satisfy the increasingly politically-vocal Kurdish community. “The national awareness has been rising among Kurds,” she asserts, and their faith in the democratic process remains high. As such, she argues that there is growing momentum to resolve the Kurdish issue through civilian means.
Turkey: Tensions with Kurds Suggest “Crisis Point”
September 1st, 2010 by Anna
In a piece for Foreign Policy
yesterday, Henri Barkley contended that “Turkey is slowly and inexorably moving towards a crisis point.” In his view, “tensions between the [Turkish] government and the country’s Kurdish minority are threatening to explode like never before,” and the Kurdish question “remains Turkey’s Achilles’ heel, influencing all aspects of political and cultural life, from civil-military relations to democratic reforms to foreign policy.” He describes the domestic political environment as being “thick with stories of daily humiliations, minor taunts, and discrimination in housing and employment,” conditions that have helped produce an “alienated and angry” population of young Kurds that are becoming increasingly assertive in the political arena. Mass arrests and drawn-out court cases against Kurdish activists have not deterred them from continuing to demand cultural freedoms, freedom of the press, and more autonomy from the centralized Turkish state. According to Barkley, the U.S. “has been oblivious to this brewing crisis” even though it could have repercussions for U.S. efforts to promote stability in Iraq and elsewhere.
Iraq: Kurdish Villages With No Government
August 25th, 2010 by Farid
In a group of Kurdish villages in the Qandil mountains in Iraq, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is the only active body that maintains security in the region. Namo Abdolla writes
in The New York Times, “It is a place without a government, and without disorder. It is, perhaps, in many ways, an ideal example of what philosophical anarchists wish to see in a larger community.” The PKK, which holds a Marxist view of the state, has organized the villages to deal with their own affairs as independent municipalities.
Turkey: 15 Year-Old Kurdish Girl Convicted As Terrorist
July 20th, 2010 by Farid
Becky Lee Katz
at the LA Times
Babylon & Beyond blog reports
that a 15 year-old Kurdish girl, Berivan Sayaca, who attended a demonstration while visiting her aunt, has been convicted as a terrorist and sentenced to a seven-year, nine-month jail time. Turkish authorities allege that the demonstration was held by the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and they accuse Sayaca of throwing stones at the police. Supporters of Sayaca deny that she was part of the demonstrations, saying that she was only passing by a demonstration “coordinated not by the PKK but by the recently banned Kurdish political party Peace and Democracy, or BDP.”
Decorating a letter to a local human rights groups with hearts and roses, Sayaca wrote: “I’m drowning and imprisoned though I have committed no great crime,” “it is more than I can stand. I feel so much pain. I do not deserve to be here. You cannot imagine how terrible a place the prison is. Words are not enough to explain it. I’m so scared to spend the rest of my childhood in here. I want to be with my family, in my house, go to school, play with my friends. I want to be free instead of being in prison.” According to an anti-terror law passed by the Turkish government in 2006, “minors can be convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 50 years in prison,” and Sayaca is currently waiting until her 23rd birthday to be released, while her “mental health has deteriorated” during solitary confinement.
Turkey: Kurds Reconsider Resignations
December 18th, 2009 by Jason
Reuters reports that the Turkish government announced it will continue as planned
with reforms expanding Kurdish rights despite a court ruling that banned (see previous post) the Democratic Society Party (DTP). According to Interior Minister Besir Atalay, “the Kurdish initiative will continue with determination, the necessary regulations will be accelerated.”
Nonetheless, Christian Science Monitor wonders whether the ban on the DTP and subsequent violent protests will undermine reform efforts
. According to Dilek Kurban of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), the ban “has made it increasingly difficult for Kurds to see a space for themselves in legitimate political life in Turkey.”
Meanwhile, according to al-Jazeera
, a group of DTP politicians have reconsidered their resignation from parliament. According to DTP leader Ahmet Turk, “this decision is a clear demonstration that we have faith in democracy […] and that we advocate peace and not violence.” It is reported that their decision came after PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, currently imprisoned, sent a message through his lawyers urging them to not abandon the political process. The DTP members will now join the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) instead of serving as independents.
Turkey: Democracy and the Kurds
November 24th, 2009 by Zack
The Washington Post
has written an editorial criticizing Turkish PM Recep Erdogan
for backsliding on his commitment to democratic principles. Despite the fact that Erdogan is pushing through Kurdish reforms, the dimming prospects of Turkey joining the E.U. has led Turkey to adopt an unwanted stance on Israel and a coziness with Iran, Syria and Sudan, as well as cracking down on Turkish media. The editorial concludes that Erdogan must stop “coddling Muslim dictators — and stop following their practice of silencing domestic opposition.”
The New York Times
on the other hand has published an editorial focusing on the courage of Erdogan’s Turkish reforms. While the editorial notes the same worrying trends, it argues Turkey is responding to U.S. efforts to push democracy and that Europe “must finally make clear that if Turkey bolsters its democracy and respects the rights of its minorities, it will be welcome in the European Union.”
Turkish Reforms for Kurdish Minority
November 16th, 2009 by Zack
is reporting that Turkey has laid out a reform plan to expand Kurdish rights, including the creation of an independent body to investigate cases of torture and allowing Kurds to campaign and broadcast in Kurdish. The main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), walked out of parliament in response to the legislation, which aims to disarm the Kurdish PKK. According to the New York Times this new plan comes a year after “Parliament approved private Kurdish language courses and a public television channel in Kurdish, as part of what it called a democracy package.”
Turkish Rallies over Detained ‘Peace’ Group
October 20th, 2009 by Zack
Agence France Presse
is reporting that thousands of Kurds rallied in Diyarbakir as 34 members, including eight Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels, of a “peace group” arrived from Iraq to show support for Ankara’s plans to end the 25-year Kurdish conflict. The group surrendered to police and were taken into custody for questioning immediately after crossing the border. According to the article, ”Turkish officials have said the group’s members were welcome if they were in Turkey to turn themselves in, but senior PKK commander Murat Karayilan told the pro-Kurdish Firat agency on Sunday that the group’s aim was not surrender.” Demonstrations also took place in Batman and Mardin in the southeast and the eastern cities of Tunceli, Van and Mus, as well as Izmir and Istanbul, both of which have sizeable Kurdish communities.
is now reporting that the Turkish government has released the eight PKK members pending future trials for their membership in the PKK. The fate of these men will likely influence further moves towards reconciliation.
How to Define a Turk?
September 9th, 2009 by Jason
The Washington Institute’s Soner Cagaptay
questions whether Turkey should grant group rights to the Kurds as part of the “democratic opening process” recently spearheaded by the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Instead, he argues Turkey should deal with the Kurdish issue by focusing on the individual rights of all Turkish citizens to “help make Turkey a more liberal country.”
Middle East Progress: A Spotlight on Turkey
June 17th, 2008 by Sarah
warns that the likely court decision in Turkey may have dire consequences. “Turkey’s E.U. candidacy may be irreparably damaged, nationalist tendencies reinforced, and relations with the United States, already troubled, could be further compromised.”
Turkish Raids on PKK
May 15th, 2008 by Amanda
and Samantha Rollinger at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies ask, “Should the U.S. take steps to address Turkish concerns about the PKK, and thus make future interventions less necessary?” At the end of April the Turkish military made numerous strikes on the Kurdish group just over the border, furthering strain on the Turkish-Iraqi- American alliance triangle.
The authors cite Svante Cornell of Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, who “emphasized that while the U.S. was likely displeased with Turkey’s incursion, it understood that the intervention was inevitable due to PKK attacks against Turkey.”
PKK Strains Turkey-Iraq Relations
April 25th, 2008 by Amanda
in the Daily Stardeclares that the best solution to moderating the PKK is not an offensive one, citing the recent incursion by Turkish military as a failure. He also notes problems the PKK, the militant Kurdish population in Turkey, poses for their Iraqi brethren politically. “The Kurds appreciate the importance of long-term strategic ties with Turkey,” and believe that “PKK issue is an irritating factor that is hampering progress in relations with their much-needed neighbor.” Osman calls for the dampening of radicalism and for moderate groups to come to the fore.
The Iraqi Kurds also recognize the importance of a relationship with the US. Osman affirms that the Americans wish to maintain positive relations with both the Turks and Iraqis as well, noting that “America does have two allies: a long-standing Turkish one and a nascent Iraqi one.”
Struggles in Turkey
April 18th, 2008 by Sharlina
in The International Herald Tribune analyzes the current attempts to ban the AKP, arguing that “a high court decision to nullify the popular will by dissolving a legitimately elected party would cast a pall over Turkish democracy and make it harder than it already is for Turkey to gain membership in the European Union.”
In a discussion on the interplay between Turkey, Iraq, and the PKK, Bitterlemons International
presents opinions on the topic. Hiwa Osman argues that a ripe opportunity has presented itself to engage in “
direct talks between Ankara and Arbil,” while Abdulkadir Onay urges Iraqi Kurds to recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization and thus “come on board” with the U.S., Iraqi and Turkish governments. The Council on Foreign Relations’ Steven A. Cook states
, “Washington would not look favorably on any Turkish actions in the north that would precipitate further Iranian meddling in Iraq.” Bulent Aras argues
that Turkey’s new strategy in regards to the Kurds is “based on three principles: domestic peace, regional legitimacy and coordination with the United States and the European Union.”
Tensions in Turkey
April 3rd, 2008 by Amanda
, Mustafa Kibaroglu discusses the US relationship both with Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds, writing that “US policy in Iraq appears much more sensitive to meeting the demands of the Kurdish authority than those of its long-time NATO ally.”
He notes that this has deteriorated American-Turkish relations.
According to Kibaroglu, Turks are increasingly concerned over the border threat of the PKK while Kurds remain a critical ally of the United States in the structuring of Iraqi government.
Other news in Turkey: The Constitutional Court is considering a ban on the AKP (Justice and Development Party) in response to what it believes is Prime Minister Erdogan’s threat to secularism, according to a Center for Strategic and International Studies report. It claims the Court “has been instrumental in sending into political extinction twenty four political parties in four decades. “
Ramifications of Turkish Bombing Last Thursday
January 8th, 2008 by Sharlina
The larger meaning of a terrorist car bombing that killed five people and wounded 68 last Thursday in southeastern Turkey is discussed in an editorial
in the International Herald Tribune today. The article implores the lethal blast to be seen against “the backdrop of a domestic struggle over the political and cultural identity of Turkey.” It also indicates that a reprisal of the dirty war that the Turkish military conducted against the PKK in the 1980s and ’90s could endanger the continuance of Turkish economic and political reforms and also undermine regional relationships with Iran, Syria, and Israel, as well as Turkey’s bid for membership in the European Union and Turkey’s relationship with the United States.
How to Deal with the PKK in Northern Iraq
December 18th, 2007 by Celest
After Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq chasing the PKK, Juan Cole discusses the implications for Iraqi stability of the US giving intelligence aid for the strike. He guesses that that this provision of intel from Iraq went by way of Baghdad and may destabilize the shaky parliamentary balance if the Kurdish PMs turn against al-Maliki. Michael Rubin
, in the Wall Street Journal (subscription only), argues that the current US strategy–urging Turkey to negotiate amnesty for PKK members in exchange for Iraqi Kurdistan ending its safe haven for the PKK–is “cockeyed.” Instead, the US should threaten isolation
and a cessation of all financial assistance until the Iraqi Kurds cease giving safe haven.
, in the Washington Times
, discusses the problem of the PKK havens in northern Iraq. He argues that the PKK does not represent Turkish Kurds and wonders where the moderate Kurds
are who can help resolve the problems.
Turkey, Iraq and the PKK
October 23rd, 2007 by Celest
Many articles discuss the possibility of a Turkish invasion into northern Iraq and the possible ramifications. An opinion article in the New York Times argues that Washington needs to walk Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds back from the brink
to avoid a disastrous regional war. An article by Ralph Peters
, in USA Today
, argues that the PKK threat is weak
and both success and failure of the Turkish military would be dangerous for the region.
argues that the situation has reached a boiling point but notes that all sides have an interest in avoiding confrontation. Juan Cole also comments on US efforts
to resolve the situation.
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization