Turkey's Kurds face tough uphill in parliamentary
DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of
Turkey, -- Thirteen years after being kicked
out of parliament, Turkey's Kurds staged a hard-won
comeback in Sunday's election but their goal of
reconciliation is made difficult by an upsurge in
"We want to turn a new page," a jubilant Aysel
Tugluk, one of the 24 Kurdish politicians who won
parliamentary seats according to unofficial results,
said overnight in Diyarbakir, the central city of
the mainly Kurdish southeast.
"We want to start a process of dialogue and
reconciliation in parliament to resolve the
(Kurdish) problem," she said, adding: "We will not
be a source of tension... We will act in a spirit of
tolerance and understanding."
Beating drums and chanting pro-Kurdish slogans,
crowds of people celebrated across the southeast
overnight as the results of the vote emerged.
"Ankara, here we come," they shouted.
The Kurdish candidates campaigned for a peaceful end
to the bloody 23-year conflict in the southeast,
calling on Ankara to abandon the military option
against the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and
broaden Kurdish freedoms.
But no warm welcome awaits them in Ankara, where
their Democratic Society Party (DTP), is widely
suspected of being a PKK tool aimed at advancing
The DTP has fuelled the mistrust by refusing to
condemn the PKK as a terrorist group, a label
endorsed by the European Union and the United
States, among others.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip said bluntly last week
that "the DTP will remain under suspicion as long as
it does not condemn the PKK as a terrorist
The PKK stepped up violence this year, sending
Turkish nationalist sentiment into a frenzy and
prompting calls for a military incursion into
neighbouring northern Iraq, where the rebels have
The resurgence in PKK violence was seen as one of
the main factors that brought the far-right
Nationalist Action Party back into parliament in
Sunday's election after a five-year absence.
The line-up of the winning Kurdish candidates
includes at least two militant lawyers of jailed PKK
leader Abdullah Ocalan, including Tugluk, who have
been accused of acting as conduits between the rebel
chief and his troops.
Also headed for parliament is a woman activist
currently jailed in Istanbul awaiting trial for
alleged links to the PKK.
The DTP denies any links with the PKK, but members
privately admit that the rebels have influence over
It wants amnesty for the PKK while Ankara insists
the rebels should surrender.
The DTP members contested the polls as independents
to circumvent a 10-percent national threshold that
has kept Kurdish parties outside parliament.
They are now expected to re-group under the DTP
banner once they are sworn in.
The first stint in parliament of Kurdish politicians
campaigning for minority rights ended in disaster in
1994, when their immunity was lifted on charges of
aiding the PKK.
Some of them, including human rights award winner
Leyla Zana, were jailed; others went into exile and
one joined the PKK.
Since then, Turkey, under EU pressure, has granted
the Kurdish minority a measure of cultural freedom
and lifted emergency rule in the southeast.
Kurds, however, still complain of discrimination and
ask for Kurdish to be taught in schools and used in
all fields of public life.
Rampant poverty also remains a major problem in the
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