Uludere big challenge for AKP, report says
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
A group of deputies from the Parliament’s Human Rights Commission also visited Uludere after the incident. AA photoThe government must thoroughly explain last year’s botched air raid in Uludere if it does not want to lose support in Southeast Anatolia, ruling party lawmakers have said following a fact-finding mission to the region amid unprecedented controversy over the raid prompted by comments by the interior minister.
The report, written by 20 deputies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) after a recent two-week field trip to southeastern Turkey, warned that the government risked seeing its credibility nosedive among the Kurdish community if it failed to explain how 34 civilians were killed in the raid at the Iraqi border last December, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.
“The Uludere incident is a sincerity test for the government. Five months have passed, but the incident has yet to be explained. This has caused great anxiety and concern among people of the region. The protraction of the process carries the risk of turning into mistrust among Kurds against the government. Those responsible should be found and brought to justice. This is the primary demand of the people in the region,” said the report, which has been submitted to the AKP leadership.
The AKP’s Kurdish lawmakers were also seriously irked by Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin’s controversial May 23 comments on the botched raid, and some of them have telephoned AKP heavyweights to press for the minister’s resignation or dismissal, party sources said.
The Kurdish deputies fully support the harsh rebuke AKP deputy chairman Hüseyin Çelik, himself a Kurd, issued after Şahin suggested that the 34 slain smugglers were criminals and described them as pawns of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which, he said, controls the illicit border trade from northern Iraq.
The report also highlighted far-reaching expectations by the Kurdish population, such as education in their mother tongue, constitutional citizenship and the strengthening of local administrations.
The document was compiled from the observations of the 20 lawmakers, among them Kurdish members of the AKP such as Galip Ensarioğlu, Osman Ören, Abdurrahim Akdağ and Ziver Özdemir, who met with the AKP’s grassroots supporters and representatives of local civic groups, trade unions as well as opinion leaders.
PM orders end to dispute
Moving promptly to suppress the dispute over Şahin’s remarks, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a stern message to AKP members to put an end to public statements on the botched raid as soon as he returned from a trip to Kazakhstan late May 24. Playing down calls on Ankara to apologize, he said the action the government undertook after the bombing already amounted to an apology.
“We’ve said from the outset that a mistake could have been made, but we also said that the region was an area of terrorist activity. No one should try to legitimize the smuggling business at the border,” Erdoğan said.
“We’ve allocated compensations higher than they were supposed to be. Our wives went there to visit the families. But if the terrorist organization [PKK] and its extensions expect us to make other statements, I’m sorry. It is obvious that the steps taken so far have amounted to an apology,” he said.
“I’m asking everybody, including the media, to not manipulate this issue. That’s all I have to say. And there will be no other comments from my [party] group from now on,” he added.
Şahin was notably absent when the Higher Anti-Terrorism Board convened yesterday to discuss a rising wave of PKK violence, opting instead to visit İzmir.
It was the board’s first meeting since the departure earlier this month of Murat Özçelik from the critical post of public security undersecretary. Özçelik, who had sought to outline a new strategy of negotiations to resolve the Kurdish conflict, quit earlier this month amid disagreements with Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who oversees the anti-terrorism struggle.