Kurds in Turkey are stirring things up before the June elections.
By Alina Lehtinen for Southeast European Times in Istanbul -- 31/03/11
Pro-Kurdish rallies took place at the weekend. [Reuters]
Last week the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) called on Kurds in Turkey to stage acts of civil disobedience by organising sit-ins throughout southeast Turkey.
On Monday (March 28th), riots broke out in Siirt province when about 40,000 people marched to the alleged mass graves of 200 Kurds buried in Kasapderesi.
The protests followed a BDP sit-in at Taksim Gezi Park on Sunday, where participants chanted pro-Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) slogans. Security was tight during the protest.
In the southeastern towns of Batman and Diyarbakir some BDP members, as well as other protesters, were detained.
The situation is expected to remain deadlocked until the June 12th elections.
According to Professor Tarik Oguzlu from Bilkent University, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is unlikely to make any major changes to its policies towards the Kurdish problem before those elections.
"I don't expect the AKP to take any radical reform for this particular problem in Turkey. Most likely they will keep silent," said Oguzlu.
Turkey's Kurdish population has been demanding basic rights and autonomy for decades. However, their demands still have not been fully addressed. In 2009, the government tried to tackle the problem with its so-called "Kurdish Initiative". However, analysts say it did not meet with success.
"The whole enterprise backfired because of the government's ineptitude and the failure of all other parties in Turkey to be able to agree on how to implement it," Professor Michael Gunter from Tennessee Tech University, an expert on the Kurdish issue, told SETimes.
The issue is highly sensitive in Turkey. Last week, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk was fined more than 2,500 euros for his comments in an interview with a Swiss newspaper in 2005 on the number of Kurds and Armenians that have been killed on Turkish soil.
Turkey is not the only country currently facing unrest among its Kurdish population.
"Kurdish people in Syria and Iraq are also revolting. The Kurdish problem in Turkey is very much connected to the Kurdish problem in the region," Oguzlu explained.
Some experts are warning that the Kurds are trying to take the same path as rebels in the Middle East and North Africa who are currently toppling a succession of governments.
"The current Kurdish unrest in Turkey could receive a 'boost' from the riots currently occurring in many other places throughout the Middle East," Gunter said.
However, Professor Erhan Kelesoglu of Istanbul University is hesitant to make such claims.
"Some analysts think that Kurdish youths are quite furious against the regime and very enthusiastic about the riots in the Middle East. We will see the outcome in near future," he said.