Turkish government empowers police amid Kurdish dialogue

Turkish government empowers police amid Kurdish dialogue

Turkish government empowers police amid Kurdish dialogue

Kurdish protesters throw stones as the police resorts to tear gas and water cannons in Turkey's southeastern city of Diyarbakır on Oct. 8. REUTERS Photo / Sertaç Kayar

The government has vowed to advance Turkey’s stalled the peace process – its self-declared “unique brainchild” – while also pledging to empower security forces in the aftermath of recent violent demonstrations in predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern Anatolia.

In doing so, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government pointed the finger at the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a key actor in the Kurdish political movement represented in Parliament, accusing it of provoking the demonstrations by Kurdish citizens against Ankara’s perceived inaction toward Syrian Kurds besieged by jihadists in the Syrian border town of Kobane.

In response, the HDP, which is directly involved in the process aimed at ending the three-decade-long conflict between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey’s security forces, strongly rejected the suggestion that it was the main reason for the deadly street violence that left more than 35 people dead last week.

The parties traded the severe accusations yesterday amid the government’s declaration of tougher security measures, although the HDP announced as recently as Oct. 13 that the government had “partially shared” a long-awaited draft roadmap aimed at accelerating the peace process.

The HDP argued that it was its call for demonstrations that prevented Kobane from falling into the hands of jihadists, because the U.S.-led coalition carried out its first air strike targeting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants approaching Kobane only after the protest call.

Parliamentary delegations from the HDP have been speaking to imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, in line with his central role in the peace process, over the past two years, and the party accused the government of "hypocrisy" for declaring that it considered the PKK and ISIL to be the same.

Blackmail and water cannon

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, addressing his parliamentary group yesterday, said he had warned HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş during an Oct. 1 meeting not to link the Kobane issue with the process and not to “sabotage” the talks.

“The resolution process had already begun before the Kobane incident and is not related to any external issue. But while saying this, we are not saying that ‘Kobane is insignificant,’” Davutoğlu said. “Look at what the HDP did, they tried to blackmail us by linking the resolution process to Kobane. We will not let the resolution process be used as a tool for blackmail.”

Interpreting the recent protests as a “provocation” to destroy public order ahead of the 2015 parliamentary elections, the prime minister vowed zero tolerance for any similar incidents in the future.

“Public order in Turkey is under our guarantee. We will buy five or 10 TOMAs for each TOMA destroyed,” Davutoğlu said, referring to the infamous armored water cannon vehicles, known as “Mass Incident Intervention Vehicles” (TOMA) in Turkish.

EU acquis, Germany as model

Davutoğlu also pledged to further empower the security forces in Turkey in order to not permit similar instances of vandalism and street violence, saying the government was studying models in Germany and the U.K. in order to avoid criticism that Turkey was becoming “police state.”

Earlier, emerging from a Cabinet meeting late on Oct. 13, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç announced that the government would look at Germany’s criminal code as a template when carrying out plans to empower security forces.

Arınç also stressed that the ruling AKP, in power since 2002, has always attached importance to harmonizing with the European Union acquis in implementing new legislation.

“We attach importance to the European Union acquis in regards to harmony with our laws. We take the European Union acquis as a basis in a lot of the legislation that we are adopting,” he said, adding that the Cabinet had decided to examine EU member countries’ implementation for the planned “comprehensive homeland security reform.”

“It has been decided to adopt their practices to Turkey’s conditions by perhaps taking their authorities as a basis, perhaps giving priority to Germany,” he said.

Dialogue without patronization

Not caving in to the government’s interpretation of the Kobane issue, HDP co-leader Demirtaş said his party’s call on people to take to the streets stemmed from concerns that the Mürşitpınar border gate near Kobane was set to fall. While giving this call, the party also contacted the government for aid, he said.

“We have displayed the most honorable stance that an honorable party should display and we took the streets along with our people. This is what we have done and we are still behind that call,” Demirtaş said yesterday during his party’s parliamentary group meeting.

Kobane did not emerge as an issue just a few days ago, Demirtaş said, noting that the HDP has been warning the government about the battle against jihadists in Rojava, the Kurdish northern part of Syria, for the past two years.

“The Middle East cannot be learned by penning thick books,” Demirtaş said, apparently addressing academic-turned-politician Davutoğlu and accusing him of acting in an “authoritarian” manner.

“You are about to get drowned in the depth that you wrote,” he added, referring to Davutoğlu’s book published in 2001, “Strategic Depth.”

Still, the HDP co-head left the door open to dialogue, albeit on the condition that the government alter its attitude, which he described as "patronizing."

“We state that in any case, we will not be giving up the resolution and negotiation process based on dialogue based on this understanding,” he said, urging the government to approach the issue while recognizing their own mistakes “objectively.”

If the government insists on continuing its patronizing attitude, the HDP will go its own way, he added.

What German criminal code grants to its police

Celal Özcan – BERLIN

Under Germany’s federal system, state governments implement different criminal codes, yet freedom of assembly, thus political demonstrations, is a constitutional right. 

Police can take demonstrators into custody and use force and tools, like water cannons, only if protesters resort to violent actions. Demonstrators under custody should be taken to court no longer than 24 hours after being taken into custody.

A demonstration can be banned if it is arranged at a location allocated for the memory of victims of the Nazi era or if it directly endangers public order and security.

An anti-terrorism legislation adopted in 2008 expanded the powers of the federal police to gather information from the computers, telephone lines and homes of suspected terrorists to conduct “preemptive investigations” in the event of terrorism cases.

The Turkish government has particularly cited German practice as a model for its plans to draft a new homeland security law.