MHP critical of gov’t steps on Kurdish issue

MHP critical of gov’t steps on Kurdish issue

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
MHP critical of gov’t steps on Kurdish issue

Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahçeli addresses his party’s lawmakers during a parliamentary group meeting. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader has criticized the government over the ending of hunger strikes and accused them of surrendering to the strikers, while the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) urged the government to take concrete steps toward easing tensions regarding the Kurdish issue.

MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli argued that the hunger strike campaign in prisons paved the way for the legalization of a defense in one’s mother-tongue in courts, eased the isolation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence on İmralı Island, and assured that demands for education in one’s mother tongue would be met through the new constitution.

Blaming the AKP government for surrendering to the conditions set by hunger strikers, Bahçeli questioned whether the hunger strikes were part of a plan aimed at laying the groundwork for negotiations between the AKP government and the “İmralı murderer.”

Bahçeli was referring to the hunger strikes launched by hundreds of prisoners, as well as many others, on Sept. 12 to demand an end to the isolation of Öcalan. Öcalan’s lawyers have not been allowed onto the island for the past 15 months. Protesters also demanded an end to restrictions on the use of mother tongues – namely, Kurdish – in court and in education. The decision for an end to the strike came after a call from Öcalan to hunger strikers in prisons across the country on Nov. 17. The call was conveyed by his brother, Mehmet Öcalan, who visited the PKK leader Nov. 17 in his prison on İmralı Island for the first time in months.

BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said that it was now time for political initiatives to dominate and warned that the government should seize the moment with concrete steps.

“A few concrete steps in the short-term will eliminate the dangers that Turkey has been facing. First, the ending of [Öcalan’s] isolation on İmralı; second, the opening of democratic political channels with a democratization package; and third, a transparent and open negotiation process,” Demirtaş said.

Demirtaş also argued that Turkey was lending its support to “gangs” in Syria to weaken the Kurdish groups there. Turkey’s Kurds will not remain silent if the government considers forming a de facto buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border, he added.

Meanwhile, a legal arrangement that would pave the way for a defense in one’s mother tongue in courts was submitted to a sub-commission of Parliament’s Justice Commission for further debate. The sub-commission will discuss six different law proposals on the issue and prepare its report due Nov. 26.