‘Kurdistan’ allowed in party names; PKK loses one more argument

June 30, 2014, Monday/ 18:31:59/ GÜLTEN ÜSTÜNTAĞ / ANKARA
The Supreme Court of Appeals' Prosecutor's Office announced over the weekend that the word “Kurdistan” can now be used in Turkish political parties' names, signaling a new era for Turkish politics and an increased emphasis on a peaceful political solution to the country's Kurdish issue.

The new initiative means that Kurds, who have long suffered from a shortage of political alternatives, will now able to engage more fully in politics. The decision -- which legalizes Turkey's Kurdistan Democratic Party (T-KDP), which has been carrying out political activities in southeastern Turkey without a legal basis -- has taken away yet another argument the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) can employ to justify terror, according to some Kurdish intellectuals and politicians.

Some Kurdish intellectuals have said that with the decision to allow the use of the word “Kurdistan” in parties' names, the Kurdish political arena -- which has been overwhelmingly shaped by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its political wing, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), recently transformed into the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) -- will experience a new pluralism, helping to overcome the domination of the PKK-HDP duo.

In its decision last week, the prosecutor's office said that using the word “Kurdistan” in a political party's name did not go against the Constitution and approved the establishment of the T-KDP. Prior to the prosecutor's office's decision, the Interior Ministry had approved the establishment of the T-KDP, whose name includes the word “Kurdistan.”

According to report by the Taraf daily, the founder and leader of the T-KDP, Mehmet Emin Kardaş, said that despite the fact that the political party has an agenda aiming at establishing an independent Kurdistan in Turkey's southeast, the party does not have links with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), contrary to accusations by some political actors.

However, despite the statement by T-KDP leader Kardaş, the party considers Masoud Barzani's father Mustafa Barzani -- a prominent figure in Kurdish nationalism -- as their inspiration and guide in their struggle for Kurdish rights. The party also honors Seyid Rıza, a symbol of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey, who was executed during the Dersim Rebellion in 1937 after a military operation by the Turkish army ended in the massacre of Kurdish Alevis in Dersim.

The T-KDP chose Mount Ararat -- the highest mountain in Turkey -- with the sun behind it as its emblem and has the yellow, red and green colors in its flag.

The decision to set up the T-KDP came after Barzani visited Turkey in April and met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Diyarbakır, a meeting which was considered to have given momentum to the ongoing settlement process between the government and the PKK's imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, aiming at ending Turkey's decades-old Kurdish conflict. During the visit, Erdoğan and Barzani delivered a joint speech in Diyarbakır.

Speaking to Today's Zaman about the newly launched political party, Kurdish politician Sertaç Bucak -- who launched the Kurdish Democratic Platform (KDP) civil initiative in 2013 -- said that allowing the use of the word “Kurdistan” in political contexts is a sign of the normalization of Kurdish politics in Turkey.

“From now on, many Kurdish political parties will appear in the political arena. Democratization is a solution for all political disputes. Now, all parties in Kurdish politics will be able to diversify their manifestos and Kurds will have more alternatives to express their political demands and rights. The process is taking us to a point where the terrorism threat will be diminished. Many injustices will no longer exist,” Bucak noted.

According to Reşit Deli, a deputy chairman of the pro-Kurdish Rights and Freedoms Party (Hak-Par), the decision by the prosecutor's office reflects the transformation that Turkey has been undergoing: “The prosecutor's office's decision to allow the use of ‘Kurdistan' in party names corresponds  to Turkish political realities. As to the debate about whether the establishment of such a party might be commented as interference in Turkey's internal affairs [due to the party's connections with the Barzani family], I know that Barzani has long followed a political principle not to intervene in neighboring countries' internal affairs. I don't think that he would attempt such a thing.”

“I also know Mehmet Emin Kardaş. We have been engaged in politics for 30 years in similar groups. He doesn't embrace the PKK's violent way of carrying out politics, either. I believe that the step taken by Kardaş and his associates in the T-KDP will be beneficial for Turkish democracy. They also want to get rid of violence as a political tool,” Deli added.

Revolutionary Democratic Cultural Association (DDKD) Chairman İmam Taşçıer also views the development as a positive step taken both by the state institutions and Kurdish political figures.

“This is an important move in terms of Kurdish rights. It will prevent Kurds from resorting to violence and give people a way to seek the democratic and political rights of the Kurdish people. If the reasons which gave rise to the PKK are removed, then the PKK will also be eliminated one day. The PKK will thus lose the arguments that it has made for decades,” Taşçıer said.

According to media reports, the move is also considered a political maneuver by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to garner the support of Turkey's Kurds -- some of whom align themselves with Barzani's political view -- in the run-up to the upcoming presidential election, in which Erdoğan will most probably run.