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Election impossible in current situation, says Turkey's pro-Kurdish party

ANKARA - Daily News Parliament Bureau | 4/26/2011 12:00:00 AM | GÖKSEL BOZKURT

Recent developments in the Southeast threaten the safety of the upcoming general election, the former co-chair of the country's main pro-Kurdish party has said.

Recent detentions in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast, which prompted a 20,000-strong protest march, and other related developments threaten the safety of the upcoming general election, the former co-chair of the country’s main pro-Kurdish party has said.

“If the Kurds are walking to the borders [in protest] as a result of the pressure, thinking that they will leave if they are not wanted, this shows the situation has reached a boiling point” Gültan Kışanak, a current deputy candidate for Parliament, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

If the prime minister and the government continue to ignore the concerns of the country’s Kurds and fail to take precautions in the region, the safety of the June 12 vote could be at risk, added Kışanak, who formerly served as the co-leader of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.

Police detained 35 people Monday in the southeastern province of Hakkari, including the deputy mayor and other local officials, in connection with ongoing investigations into the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK. The operations, reportedly carried out by police with special authority at city-center locations and at the “Democratic Solution Tent” set up by the BDP drew strong criticism from the party and a demonstration by 20,000 Kurds who walked to the country’s border to protest the arrests.

The meaning behind the march was to say, “If we are subjected to such pressure and cruelty, we must not be wanted here. We will not stay where we are not welcome; we will leave,” Kışanak told the Daily News.

“Every protest was stopped, tents were removed, the people were advanced upon with vehicles and tear gas and continuous systematic violence was inflicted,” she said. “The scene right now is terrible, with thousands in custody, hundreds injured and one dead. Those who walked to the borders in Hakkari protested this situation.”

The march was a first, according to Kışanak. “And it was not even planned. It came from the anger felt at that moment. The dominant psychology is, ‘You see us as the enemy. You treat us as the enemy. If we are not citizens, then we should leave,’” she said. “And the practices in the region in the last two months really do prove this idea’s validity. There is a hateful attack, as if they are approaching the enemy.”

People in the region will not accept the current situation, Kışanak said. “They are saying that if police attacks do not end, they will not leave the streets. The initiative now belongs to the people. The situation has reached a boiling point.”

Working toward the elections will not be possible in the Southeast if the current circumstances persist, Kışanak said, giving an example from the province of Siirt, where she is standing as a candidate.

“There were 30 armored vehicles in a 500-square-meter area. Is there an enemy invasion? Why did they pile in the military gendarmerie?” she asked. “We are under a terrifying militarist pressure. How can there be an election under such circumstances?”

The government needs to politically respond to the political demands of the BDP and the Kurdish people – including education in Kurdish, removing the electoral threshold, ending military operations and releasing political prisoners – said Kışanak, criticizing the ruling party for its neglect of the issue.

“The prime minister needs to ask what is going on in the region. He is giving orders for attacks against the Kurdish people living in the region, but he also needs to calculate the results of that,” she said.

“On the one hand, hundreds of thousands of people have hit the streets in the past two months. But the prime minister is touring the country [on his election campaign] like there is no problem,” Kışanak said. “In light of this understanding that completely excludes the Kurdish people and shakes the confidence of a shared existence, it is normal and natural that the people have walked to the borders.”

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