Friday, June 18, 2010

Open and Shut

More troubling news for the Turkish government's initially promising "democratic opening," a reform initiative announced last summer that's mostly designed to deal with the decades-old Kurdish problem.

As the Turkish press reports today, ten members of a group 34 Kurds who returned to Turkey last October after several years in exile in northern Iraq have been arrested after being charged with supporting the PKK. The group's return (several of them were former PKK members) was one of the first visible signs -- and tests -- of the government's new initiative (sometimes referred to as the "Kurdish opening"). More groups of exiled Kurds were supposed to come after the first one, but the heros' welcome given to the initial group and the fact that jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan said they returned at his command, turned the whole thing into something very costly for the government, and plans for further returns were put on hold.

Since then, everyone in the group of returnees (save for four minors) has been charged with making statements on behalf of the PKK and are currently standing trial for "supporting a terrorist organization." So much for amnesty and reconciliation.

Take a look at this Eurasianet article of mine for more background on the "Kurdish opening."

These arrests, when put together with the recent increase in clashes between the military and the PKK in Turkey's predominantly-Kurdish southeast and an ongoing court case against a large number of Kurdish politicians who are also accused of supporting the PKK, paint a troubling picture. For now, Ankara appears to be struggling to find a way of pushing forward its much needed Kurdish initiative while at the same time keeping Ocalan and the PKK -- who still hold a considerable amount of influence -- out of the process.

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