Turkey continues efforts to criminalize Northern Kurdistan’s main political party

In the space of a week the Turkish justice has convicted a group of 53 Kurdish mayors for backnig an international Kurdish-language TV station as well as the politician Layla Zana, accused of “spreading terrorist propaganda” · Ankara continues to link the DTP to the PKK.

The Turkish Government seizes all opportunities to persecute the Kurdish people’s attempts to gain political autonomy. And this week the Government has made it clear to the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the only political party in Northern Kurdistan that has not yet been banned, that they have no intention of allowing them to participate in Turkish democracy, with the sentencing of 53 Kurdish mayors and the possible prison sentence faced by former deputy Leyla Zana. 

A total of 53 pro-Kurdish mayors were convicted by the “Court for Serious Crimes” in Amed (the Kurdish name for Diyarbakir) and sentenced to two months in prison, although the sentence is likely to be commuted to a fine. In 2005 politicians headed by Amed’s mayor Osman Baydemir sent a letter to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen asking him to stand up to Ankara and halt plans to close down Roj TV, a Kurdish television company based in Denmark. The majors warned Fogh Rasmussen that the closure would violate the cultural rights and freedom of speech of the Kurdish people.

Ankara claims that Roj TV is a “propaganda machine” for the rebel fighters of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) because it often shows images of PKK members training or attacking Turkish soldiers, according to Turkish Daily News.

The mayors deny the accusations and claim that although they “gave their support to the Kurdish-language TV station, they never praised its contents”, describing the case brought against them as a matter of freedom of speech.

Almost all DTP politician could face similar charges because even using the Kurdish language is enough to link them to the PKK. The DTP could be made illegal at any moment and the Turkish Government has demonstrated in the past how effectively it closes parties down: DEP and HADEP are the latest to be banned. The DTP is currently the only Kurdish party with deputies in the Turkish Assembly (20 out of 550), but its real strength is at municipal level, where it enjoys comfortable majorities in Northern Kurdistan.

Leyla Zana, again
Leyla Zana is probably one of the most famous names in Kurdish politics, especially after being arrested in 1995 for taking her parliamentary oath in the Turkish Assembly in Kurdish. Leyla Zana was accused of being a member of the PKK and was only released from prison in 2004.

But Zana could now return to prison after a Turkish court convicted her of spreading “terrorist propaganda”, sentencing her to two years’ imprisonment. During a political rally she said that Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of PKK, is a “leader for Kurds”.

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