December 28th, 2012
05:48 PM ET

Erdogan's troubling shift toward repression

By Mehmet Yuksel, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mehmet Yuksel is the BDP representative in Washington, DC. The views expressed are the author’s own.

Many U.S. officials still consider Turkey a model for the Middle East, crediting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with ushering in reforms that have excised the presence of the Turkish military from the political sphere. They are wrong. Erdoğan’s recent treatment of political opposition suggest that rather than democratize Turkey, he is instead following the model employed by Vladimir Putin in Russia or Mohamed Morsy in Egypt.

Erdoğan entered office promising a new approach on the Kurdish issue, a topic which the predominantly Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party [BDP] holds dear. But his outreach was insincere. On September 5, 2012, he demanded the judiciary investigate BDP members of parliament, and called for the AKP to use its supermajority to strip parliamentary immunity from 10 BDP members of parliament. Security forces and Erdoğan’s backers interpreted his remarks as open season on the BDP. Even sitting BDP members of parliament faced police abuse and attacks. The irony is that all cases against the BDP boil down to political dissent, whereas the several dozen cases pending against not only AKP deputies but also Erdoğan himself are over corruption and fraud.

Erdoğan’s call to strip immunity is not mere posturing. Already in Turkey, five BDP deputies, two Republican Peoples Party [CHP] deputies and a Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] deputy are in jail. To stand up to Erdoğan and demand true debate on his dictates now appears to be a criminal offense.

Erdoğan’s move against opposition MPs simply brings into parliament what is already a reality throughout Turkey. In 2009, Erdoğan and security forces under his control launched a massive repressive operation against both the BDP rank-and-file and the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK). More than 8,000 Kurdish activists are reportedly in prison, including elected municipal administrators and high level party members. The repression has increased along with BDP success. In 2009 elections, the BDP doubled the towns and cities it administers, sometimes achieving more than 80 percent of the vote. The BDP also dominates Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s Kurdistan.

More from GPS: Turkey in 2013

In response to Erdoğan’s efforts to constrain both democracy and a political outlet for Turkey’s Kurds, senior BDP leaders and several hundred Kurdish prisoners staged a 68-day hunger strike, demanding justice as well as the right of Kurdish prisoners to defend themselves in their mother tongue. While Erdoğan’s drive faltered in the face of widespread non-violent protest, should he continue his vendetta against the BDP and their efforts to win Turkey’s Kurds basic human rights, the results could be grave.

The BDP represents many disillusioned Kurds who otherwise might abandon the political process altogether. Already, most Kurds consider the Turkish parliament to be a house for Turks only, and not citizens of Turkey who are not ethnic Turks. Should the BDP abandon Ankara for Diyarbakir, Kurds will have no other option than to demand the international community recognize the self-determination of the Kurdish people, just as they have for Palestine.

Erdoğan’s dictatorial tendencies increasingly ensure Kurds have no internal democratic recourse to win their fundamental rights within Turkey.

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Topics: Turkey

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. deniz boro

    I am glad to get the feedback (although in a rather indirect mean) that my comment was to the point. I am sure it would be noted.

    December 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  2. Ferhat Balkan

    What about the BDP's 'troubling shift' towards extremism? Such as embracing the PKK terrorists and labeling them as heroes when all they do is kill civilians, kidnap tourists, bomb schools and smuggle drugs across the border to purchase weapons. The BDP needs to be disbanded and most of their so called political leaders arrested for supporting terrorists. Why can't they ask the PKK to lay down their arms? PKK has nothing to do with the so called 'Kurdish Issue' or their rights. It's just a big political game orchestrated by other nations to destabilize the region and to prevent Turkey from achieving it's true potential as a regional power and broker of peace.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
    • Quigley

      If that jerk Erdogan had any decency Ferhat, he would grant the Kurds the independence they deserve and stop following the dictates from Washington D.C. Moreover, he would and should try to help the Syrians end their civil war!

      December 29, 2012 at 12:55 am | Reply
    • bilgedervish

      Yes, you are right Ferhat. PKK is the ruins of corrupted-east after WWI, in Turkey. The region was also destabilized by Russia and their communist manifests. Most of the PKK terrorists are inspired by guerrilla movements in many countries. Also we should consider the ETA phenomenon. Kurdish PKK terrorists want to be like ETA and be international. BDP is actually powerful, though. In order to follow PKK commands, they stay in our national assembly covering some seats with their bloody hands. It is obvious that you have a good point of view. I just wanted to admit what you've written here. We (as Turks) should dominate every conversation that are about Turkey that takes place in internet.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  3. wjmccartan

    As someone who is interested in what happens around the world, I would like to see more inmformation provided behind stories like this with maps perhaps to understand what area inside Turkey is being affected by the politics. The world is ever evolving and when changes happen its better to be informed if it can be done with unbiased news. Peace.

    December 29, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Reply
    • deniz boro

      Hear! Hear!

      December 30, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Reply
    • J. T.

      Just a start, but this article might point you in the right direction – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_Kurdistan

      December 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Reply
    • deniz boro

      Democratic people in Turkey wellcomed the democratic expression of the Kurdish issue in Turkey and their expressing themselves in the parliment as a political party. The leading party expressed its willingness to begin negotiations to find a solution. As the other political parties, most democratic Turkish people did choose to ignore the rather "provocative" speaches they did for world-wide accepted terrorist groups under their cover of a "parliment member". But it was well beyond acceptable limits when a member of BDP embraced a PKK militant (PKK is an internationally known terorist organization) in view of TV cameras.
      I can not give any other unbias information other than to say that PKK are only a handful of Kurds who chose to be outlaws, whereas a lot of Kurds live peacefully in Turkey.
      I do not know the numbers but I believe a comparison of the number of PKK outlaws and Kurdish people living in Turkey can be enlightning.

      January 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Reply
  4. starspangled

    Giving rights to any ethnic minority is the last thing on turkey's outlook for it's future, they want to subjugate anyone who's in the way of their Neo-ottoman ambitions. The geographic location that places a portion of the land in the European region has sadly served very little to influence positively the current regime in government. erdogan has chosen to implement the worse of both worlds, both the throwback soviet tendencies of current Russia, that persecutes dissenting voices, reporters and a more decentralized government and the resurgence of an extremist islamist adherence seen throughout the Ummah. This is erdogan's dire vision for turkey and the population regrettably seems to agree with him. What's more troubling is how our leaders in the EU and the U.S. seem to be not only condoning but rewarding him for this.

    December 30, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  5. A Zaza

    BDP does not represent Kurds in Turkey. They have no rights to defend Kurdish rights. Erdogan kept his promise annd gave most of the rights not only for Kurds but also all etnicities in Turkey. BDP is not independent because of heavy pressure of the KCK. They can not put worward any step without concent of the Kandil. There was no hungerstrike in prison they were all eating and enjoyin their life in prison. Just couple of them were hospitalized after they finish their so called hungerstrike. Their wellbeing was fine. BDP deserved to be shut down however AKP is trying not to.
    By the way whatever Turks did for Kurds in the past Kurds doing the same for Zaza today. They are trying to assimilate Zaza population in Turkey by saying Zaza and Kurd are same. There is no such etnicity.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
  6. j. von hettlingen

    The conflict between the Turkish leadership and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has escalated rapidly in the past few months, with some of the heaviest fighting in three decades. It is a remarkable deterioration and could hamper the unprecedented talks that were proceeding less than two years ago. Successive governments in Ankara have always pointed the finger at outside forces for igniting the Kurdish problem in Turkey. The Syrian conflict has no doubt a spillover effect on Turkey as well.

    December 31, 2012 at 6:37 am | Reply
    • deniz boro

      Turkey was bound to learn to play the game as the rest of the world.

      January 2, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  7. deniz boro

    See how much can change in 6 months time. It all seems absurd to me. But I am glad that eventually my eyes are open. I realy did try to sympatize with Mr. Erdogan. But his censoring and repressive behavior is unacceptable and unforgivable.

    June 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Reply

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