The prime minister paid a visit to the southeastern province of Diyarbakır yesterday amid tensions in the region stemming from protests related to the alleged maltreatment of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence on İmralı island in the Sea of Marmara.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the inauguration of the new academic year at Dicle University, Erdoğan said: “Whenever the democratic will strengthens in the region, civil society improves and our citizens make their existence felt through their own free will, the terrorist organization panics and does what it can to create an atmosphere of fatigue in society. This is the reason for the recent increase in violence.”
A bloody PKK attack on a military outpost in the Aktütün area, near the border with Iraq, executed in broad daylight on Oct. 3 claimed the lives of 17 soldiers and injured 21 others. Additionally, a PKK raid on a police shuttle in Diyarbakır on Oct. 8 resulted in the deaths of five people, four of whom were police officers.
Diyarbakır saw security officers posted at 20-meter intervals on the route Erdoğan used. The prime minister’s vehicle was protected by a special van. Some shop owners in the city did not open their shops, fearing violence upon Erdoğan’s arrival.
“If some stores are closed in areas of Diyarbakır today, why is this so? Because of threats. On the one hand you [the PKK] say you support democracy and want to promote a democratic state of law, and on the other you use threats to prevent citizens and shop owners from going about their business,” Erdoğan said.
The prime minister also noted that it was out of the question for the PKK, which poses a mortal threat to the police and military forces as well as the peace and welfare of this country, to be the representative of Turkey’s Kurdish citizens.
Investors stay away from region out of security concerns
Speaking about the reasons that discourage investors from investing in the region, Erdoğan said it was impossible for the standard of life to improve and investment to enter a region in which freedoms have not taken root and peace and security cannot be maintained.
“We gave incentives to the eastern and southeastern region. Why are investors not coming to these regions? Because there is no security. They [the investors] say they want to find a secure environment in which to invest. International companies want to invest in these regions but give up on the idea because of the existence of terrorism. Investors would like to see two things before they invest in a region: security and stability,” Erdoğan said.
He clarified that this does not mean there is no investment in the region but that the level of investment has not reached desired levels.
The prime minister said his government was determined to move Turkey further on its EU accession process despite PKK provocations.
“Turkey will neither abandon its security nor its democracy and human rights despite the terrorist organization’s provocations and attacks aiming to do just that. We will continue our bid to develop Turkey’s 81 provinces simultaneously,” Erdoğan added.
He also announced that TV broadcasting in Kurdish will be launched in January and that it will initially broadcast 12 hours a day in Kurdish. He said broadcasting hours will be increased later.
Erdoğan criticizes DTP mayor
The prime minister directed criticism at Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, who belongs to the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), for his failure to develop Diyarbakır sufficiently. “I saw the condition of the roads while coming here from the airport. Does waste on the roads befit a modern city like Diyarbakır? Does this municipality not have garbage trucks and cleaners? This public should teach him the necessary lesson. What we call civilization is water, cleanliness and roads. It is love and respect. We should all share them,” he noted.
Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came in first in the 2007 general elections in the southeastern region, beating the DTP. Erdoğan aims to show the same success in local elections scheduled for March 2009 and win the Diyarbakır Municipality, which is seen as a DTP stronghold.
Prime minister arrives in Diyarbakır amid tension
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived yesterday in Diyarbakır amid tensions in Turkey’s Southeast over protests related to the alleged maltreatment of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara. Diyarbakır saw security officers posted at 20-meter intervals on the route Erdoğan used. The prime minister’s vehicle was protected by a special van.
Prior to Erdoğan’s arrival, pro-Öcalan protestors demonstrated, burning tires and trash. Some shop owners in Diyarbakır closed their stores in protest of Erdoğan’s arrival or in fear of violence. In Doğubeyazıt, a town in eastern Ağrı province, protestor Ahmet Özkan died in a clash with police after police prevented a group of protestors from walking into the town square. Police used gas against protestors, who used stones and clubs against the police. The group then dispersed, but small groups of people still continued their protests. In Batman, Governor Vali Kızılcık called on shop owners to open their stores and unite “against the people who would like to disturb peace.”In Viranşehir, Şanlıurfa province, PKK sympathizers staged violent protests. A group of around 50 people between the ages of 10 and 20 used Molotov cocktails to attack policemen lining Karacadağ Street. They then walked to the center of town and attacked the special forces there. They formed barricades using trash bins. The protesters were dispersed in a short period of time but the street remained closed for some time thereafter.
Police detained dozens of people who took to the streets in the Southeast over the weekend. In Diyarbakır, thousands of demonstrators, including pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) deputies, released a press statement in front of the DTP Diyarbakır provincial branch. They termed the alleged treatment of Öcalan as “humiliating and unacceptable,” noting that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) would be responsible for the public indignation the incident would lead to. İstanbul Today’s Zaman with wires