Tuesday, 17 July 2012, 09:54 GMT
Diyarbakir turns into battle zone: the legitimacy of the Turkish State damaged further among Kurds

The Kurdish Globe
By Mehmed Sabri Akgönül

A public rally asking for the freedom of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which was banned by Diyarbakir's Governor, turned into a battlefield.

Three deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Batman MP Ayla Akat, Kars MP Mulkiye Birtane and BDP deputy parliamentary group chair Pervin Buldan as well as Diyarbakir Metropolitan Mayor Osman Baydemir were among those injured in the clashes, which lasted several hours. Moreover, many of the wounded and dozens of demonstrators, including journalists, were taken into custody.

In fact, it was not difficult to predict that clashes between Kurdish demonstrators and Turkish police officers would take place on Saturday. The Governor of Diyarbakir refused the BDP permission to hold the rally on July 14th stating that the governorate had intelligence on the possible presence of illegal groups that would try to encourage the Kurdish people to take to the streets against the Turkish security forces.

Actually, the governor's office was afraid the rally would serve as a means for the PKK to make its political propaganda. Another reason behind the decision to deny the rally was the fact that the date of July 14th coincides with the announcement of Kurdish democratic autonomy, which was unilaterally declared by the DTK last year in Diyarbakir and was supported by the BDP and PKK.

But, shortly after the statement by the Governor's office, the BDP called on Kurdish people to attend the rally as a reprisal against the decision. The BDP emphasized that in spite of the ban, the BDP would be at Station Square, where the rally was to be held on July 14th. DTK co-chair and Diyarbakir MP Aysel Tugluk said that "banning the rally has no legitimacy. Our [Kurdish] people are going to surmount the ban."

The leader of the BDP, Selahattin Demirtas, stated they would not take a backward step until Abdullah Ocalan was released. "Our party plan to hold the meeting to emphasize that a political solution for Kurdish issue is not possible without Ocalan. However, approach of Turkish state to this rally will show its approach towards a solution," he said.

BDP Party members, who proclaimed the Governor's decision to ban the rally as illegal, decided to march into Station square where the rally was going to take place. At that moment they were exposed to an assault by the Turkish police. Police forces intervened with truncheons, tear gas and water cannons against Selahattin Demirtas and other protesters accompanying him, who reaffirmed their strong will to occupy Station Square at any cost. "You cannot block the path of the Members of Parliament. You are committing a crime, holding a rally is our right. We are struggling also for you. I am warning you to give us a way," Demirtas shouted at the police.

Demirtas also said that "Station square is the Freedom square of Kurdish people. The governor who banned our rally and the mindset that banned our rights have to come here. Fascism will be the tomb of Kurdistan." When they attempted to enter the square, Police blocked them and closed all roads warned all groups to disperse. Some of the demonstrators tried to pull up paving stones and break them to throw at the police who scattered them with water cannon and teargas. Police also fired pepper spray into the garden of the Sumer Mosque where some people took refuge and some surrounding houses.

Furthermore, BDP's deputies evaluated these preventions and aggressions against them as a fascist ploy and an atrocity. Osman Baydemir reacted rigorously against the police by saying "this is fascism" and along with some demonstrations thumped the Police's panzer which was used to fire water cannons against the protesters.

BDP's MPs protested the violence used by police and staged a sit-down strike in the garden of the Sumer Park on Saturday night. During the sit-in, Demirtas uttered that the Kurdish people who didn't succumb to the aggression of the AKP government showed passion for the freedom of the Kurdish people and their demand for the release of Abdullah Ocalan. "In spite of the Turkish state's grimly approach to this rally and made tortures to these demonstrators, they couldn't take possession of this Kurdish folk. By drawing attention to what happened in the streets of Diyarbakir during the day, he said that our [Kurdish] people opposed resisting against colonial and decayed mentality of the AKP," he said.

The representatives of some political parties and civil society organizations reacted angrily and criticized the AKP government for the severe retaliation of the Turkish police against the protesters. Sezgin Tanrikulu, who is a Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy chairman and well known for his activism in the field of human rights, indicated that the AKP government is reaping the results of its attitude for favoring restrictions regarding to the opposition groups by saying, "without applying violence in any level, conducting a meeting and assembling a rally are the basic rights of every political party and citizens. This cannot be forbidden. Today, measures exceeding the State of Emergency were implemented in Diyarbakir. We are condemning this excessive force conducted by the Police as we did before."

Human Rights Association (IHD) chair and lawyer Ozturk Turkdogan said that if the Turkish state continues to these attitudes, it will face a greater response from Kurds. "The right of demonstration of the representatives of Kurds should not be prevented. This is a complete understanding of totalitarianism," he added. Turkdogan also stated that the last events show that there is different understanding of law in Kurdistan.

Lami Ozgen, the head of the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), reminded that such decisions to prohibit gathering was also made during the period of Newroz celebrations and said the AKP government should refrain from preventing the democratic reaction of Kurdish politics. Ozgen defined Turkish polices reaction as lawless by saying "a democratic political party wish to present democratic demonstration. However, martial law was declared by the AKP in Diyarbakir. Barricades were erected in the all streets. The use of violence against BDP MPs is a hostile attitude of the state."

Head of the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions (DİSK), Erol Ekici, also said that disallowing a rally in country, where "advanced democracy" is voiced, is not in tune with democracy and he mentioned that after the prevention order initiated by the Diyarbakir governorate, there appeared police violence against the elected MP's and the citizens.

BDP met with many Kurdish civil society organizations and political associations in Diyarbakır in order to participate in the rally together but they rejected to participate because this rally is not for the rights and liberties of the Kurdish people but because of the sole aim for the freedom of Abdullah Ocalan.

These associations and NGOs proposed to the BDP that the cause of this rally should not become solely for Ocalan but for the freedom of all the Kurdish people, however, this was rejected by BDP. In fact, MPs of BDP uttered for a long time that the actual interlocutor is Ocalan in the Kurdish issue.

This manner of BDP is disturbing many Kurdish political organizations and the positioning of Ocalan as a sole interlocutor is not accepted due to the consideration of the Kurdish question as a national-political issue. This call of the BDP is not to be found conceivable because it reduces Kurdish demands for freedom into the freedom of a single man. In addition, considering Ocalan's proposals for the solutions of the Kurdish question, these are not Kurdish national rights or demands that are not bringing political sovereignty for Kurds. They think the national energy of Kurds is wasted by the political agents of the BDP/PKK.

In Diyarbakir, it is not an unusual for a demonstration to turn a battle zone. There were times that the sky was filled with clouds of pepper gas and the streets were painted with the blood of Kurdish protesters. In fact, to establish a meeting in Station Square is a miracle because this square is easy to control with its four gates. In some incidents little protester groups could enter the square but they were easily taken out.

At the highest point of the police violence on 14th of July, it was mainly the Kurds that are killed or put in danger of death or got damaged economically. But Kurds weren't the only losers, the Turkish state also suffered damaged.

The harm that affects the Turkish state is the fact that Turkish government is not deemed as a legal government but an oppressor power in north Kurdistan. An ordinary Kurd in Diyarbakir thinks that the Turkish state owes its existence and political power to the monopoly of violence it executes. It becomes a secondary issue that causes the initial conflict. In other words, the main conflict becomes the existence of the Kurdish nation and the Turkish sovereignty on Kurds that is sustained by hegemony of weapons.