Tension grows as MPs trip to Öcalan in limbo

Tension grows as MPs trip to Öcalan in limbo

Tension grows as MPs trip to Öcalan in limbo

Members of Parliament from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) are forced to cancel the last leg of a Black Sea tour to Trabzon after encountering violent protests by ultranationalists in the first two stops, Sinop and Samsun. DHA photo

Names listed for the second parliamentarian delegation set to visit the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on İmralı island remained ambiguous as of Feb. 19, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying there had yet to be a formal request from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

“No written application arrived at our [justice] ministry yet. The names will become clear after the application,” Erdoğan told reporters Feb. 19.

“What statement is the government expected to make? Whoever wants to go, he or she makes a written application,” Erdoğan said when reminded that the BDP had said they were expecting a statement from the government.

BDP co-chair Gültan Kışanak said the party’s work for the visit is still underway. “Within the shortest time possible, a delegation from our party will visit İmralı, our work is still underway,” Kışanak said. “Technical procedures are not very important. An application [for the visit] can be made during the day or night, there’s no problem. Our party will decide on the delegation for the visit and the Justice Ministry will issue the permit. We want to maintain this process without any problem.”

As part of a “peace process” involving government officials holding talks with imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, to convince PKK militants to lay down their arms, parliamentarians Ahmet Türk and Ayla Akat visited Öcalan on İmralı island on Jan. 3.

Following days of uncertainty over when a second BDP visit would take place, Erdoğan said Feb. 17 that the names had been given to the government and they would give the decision later in the day.

Definition of nationalism

During political party leaders’ weekly addresses to their parties’ parliamentary groups on Feb.19, nationalism was a key theme as Erdoğan stood firm behind what he had said on the concept of nationalism over the weekend while also accusing both the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the BDP of following policies based on racism.

“[MHP leader Devlet] Bahçeli is speaking of nationalism today. Whom will you dupe with this nationalism?” Erdoğan asked, adding that nationalism should not be based on racist tendencies. “Bahçeli, you are doing so and the BDP, which is against you, is also doing so. You’re getting nourished from each other. That’s what you have been doing,” he said, while reiterating what he said of their understanding of nationalism over the weekend and rejecting ethnic and religious nationalism.

Bahçeli reiterated his strongly-worded objection to the peace process, as he attacked Erdoğan and suggested that the AKP had deceived its nationalist and conservative voters.

“It shouldn’t be forgotten that being against nationalism means being against a national state, national conceit, national character, national language, national conscience, national history, national culture and national identity; in short, [it means] being against the nation,” he said.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also joined the debate on nationalism in his address, which was delivered after Erdoğan’s speech.

“Erdoğan said in Mardin [on Feb. 17] that ‘We are a government that disregards all sorts of nationalism.’ Mr. Prime Minister, if you are brave enough, deliver the same speech in [Black Sea province and Erdoğan’s hometown] Rize,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.