Thursday, December 17, 2009

DTP, Kirkuk

President of the DTP Ahmet Turk. photo from Hurriyet Daily News.

1. Closure of DTP
Last Friday night, when Tyler, Ruth and I were gossiping over dinner at Urfam Lokantasi (just a local restaurant), the news came on and it was big...the DTP had just been closed by the Turkish high judiciary. Everyone had stopped eating to watch it as it all unfolded - scenes from the court, scenes of crowds at local DTP offices across Istanbul, the DTP leader Ahmet Turk making first thought was along the lines of "holy crap." My second was, "at some point in the future, I'm going to be sitting in class and the closure of the DTP is going to come up as some kind of political watershed in the "Kurdish question" and I'm going to think back to this moment when I found out..." It was a long thought. But the kind of thought that one has in these kinds of times.

Anyways I want to write a bit about why the DTP is important, and a couple of things I think might happen, a couple of things I think that possibly should be considered. Many of these are recycled thoughts from friends, since I'm far from the expert on Turkish politics and I'm much happier to pass along more qualified thoughts from those who are...

Basics on the DTP: It stands for "Demokratik Toplum Partisi," or Democratic Society Party; and in a slightly oversimplified explanation, it is (well, it WAS) the pro-Kurdish political party in Turkey. It was shut down, and many of its top officials banned from participation in the Grand National Assembly after over a year of debate in the Turkish Constitutional Court over 11 accusations of the DTP's links with the terrorist organization the PKK, DTP sponsoring violence and separatism in Turkey, etc.

I think there are 2 basic things most people I've talked to agree on. 1) The ruling is constitutional. The DTP was guilty of these accusations, its links to the PKK would inevitably implicate it this way. 2) Result of DTP closure = political chaos, violence, instability. Already we're seeing the political fallout DTP leaders scramble to decide how to proceed...protests in Istanbul (right next to my house), in the Southeast, the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) in Northern Iraq, and more.

Finally, I want to raise a few points. Perhaps you folks in the west have gotten wind about the DTP (one or two articles in the NYT I think). Thinking back to the way that I would have thought about this 6 months ago, my guess is that the west is easily interpreting the closure of the DTP as a problem of political freedom, evidence against the Turkish "democratic" process, an oppression of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. Actually none of these things are outrageously far from the truth...but just a thought: the PKK is officially designated by the Turkish government as a terrorist organization. Over the past 20 years, conflicts have led to over 30,000 deaths. Could you picture if a major American political party, or even a single politician, were somehow tied to having relations with al-Qaeda? I fully, completely, totally and wholly want to say this is an extremely problematic kind of hypothetical question. But I just want to caution against a quick write-off of this as a problem with democratic freedoms in Turkey.

That being said, there is a huge problem with democratic freedoms in Turkey. Perhaps another time, another blogpost...

2. Northern Iraq and the Brewing Battle over Kirkuk

The coming increased violence in Southeast Turkey (an inevitable consequence, I think, of DTP closure), will lead to tensions between Northern Iraq and Turkey. Turkey will turn the pressure on Barzani and his Kurdistan Regional Government, a defacto independent "state" composing the three N Iraqi provinces of Erbil, Sulemaniya and Dahut. Possibly, cross-border raids into N Iraq will increase in frequency and/or intensity, depending on what kind of attitude the KRG takes to this coming violence. Already, however, Barzani has come out strong against the Turkish Constitutional Court Decision (could he have done otherwise...?!).

The "fragile peace" that the US hopes to maintain in Northern Iraq is also dependent on finding a viable political and economic solution for Kirkuk: ravaged by Saddam, ethnically diverse, increasingly violent, and oil-rich rich rich rich (did I mention it has a lot of oil?). While the KRG has already declared Kirkuk its capital, this doesn't sit well alongside simultaneous Turkmen/Arab claims to this oil rich rich rich province.

Turkey stand absolutely opposed to the KRG claim on Kirkuk, which would give it the financial independence to actually break away from Iraq (though who knows if that would actually happen).

I think I'm a fan of the KRG political control of Kirkuk, but ONLY if some kind of oil profit-sharing economic inter-regional sort of agreement, can be reached. But we'll I learn more I'll keep you posted.

Well, that's it for now. I'm leaving Turkey on Monday night and am about to begin my goodbye weekend...saying goodbye (at least for now) to Istanbul, to my unbelievable friends, favorite places, favorite smells, foods, sights. Today by chance, iPod shuffle gave me Rachel Yamagata's "I"ll find a way... to see you again." I thought it was appropriate :).