Turkish gov’t, BDP ties strained over peace process
“Prevention of BDP delegations’ visits to İmralı would mean that the resolution process is over. Mr. Prime Minister clearly knows it,” BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has said. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZThe row between the government and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) is deepening as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş have become involved in a heated debate over the fate of peace process.
Erdoğan challenged Demirtaş who said that if BDP members were prevented from visiting Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), then the peace process would de facto end.
The decision to send or not to send someone to İmralı Island, where Öcalan is serving a life sentence, entirely belonged to the government, Erdoğan said Oct.22.
“Either for this or that reason, nobody has the right to draw a route for the government or the Justice Ministry. It is sent when it is appropriate, and it is not sent when it is appropriate to do so. Everybody should know his place and if he knows his place, he will find the opportunity to make use of it within the law,” Erdoğan said.
The polemic between Erdoğan and Demirtaş originates from BDP deputies’ delayed visit to İmralı Island which took place on Oct. 14. After the Justice Ministry did not allow Demirtaş to visit Öcalan, reportedly due to his harsh criticism of the recently announced democratization package, two other BDP lawmakers visited the jailed PKK leader. When Demirtaş labeled the Justice Ministry’s delaying of permission for the İmralı visit as “infantile behavior,” Erdoğan warned the BDP not to fall out with the Justice Ministry. “If they continue in this tone [referring to Demirtaş’s criticism], the link would break up in the negotiations,” Erdoğan said on Oct. 15.
Demirtaş, in response to Erdoğan’s warning, said on Oct. 21 that İmralı visits were not a gift by the ruling party. “Prevention of BDP delegations’ visits to İmralı would mean that the resolution process is over. Mr. Prime Minister clearly knows it,” he said.
Demirtaş, speaking at his party’s parliamentary group meeting Oct.22, maintained his harsh criticism of the democratization process. The government had no intention of pushing the resolution process forward, according to Demirtaş.
“Mr. Prime Minister did not say a single word of ‘Kurdish’ or ‘peace process’ while announcing the democratization package [on Sept. 30]. This is political cowardice. If you were courageous, you would say ‘We are having talks [with Öcalan] for one year, thank God we stopped the deaths and now it’s time to take democratic steps for the process.’ It clearly shows that the government has no worries for the process. The government is intending to lay the blame on the other party as they did in the Oslo process [when government held secret talks with PKK figures in 2009] and in Silvan [where the PKK killed 13 Turkish soldiers and the Oslo process ended]. The government has no intention of pushing the resolution process forward, the democratization process and their approach to İmralı visits clearly reveals this,” Demirtaş said.
In further comments, Demirtaş described Öcalan as the “people’s leader.” “İmralı Island is under the government’s authority and the prison is under the authorization of Justice Ministry. But the person on that Island [Öcalan] is the leader of the people and he is in people’s hearts. He is not attached to your ministry. Only cold walls of the prison belong to you [government], Öcalan’s warm heart belongs to us. Let the İmralı Island be yours, Öcalan is ours,” Demirtaş said.