Madam President, the announcement of the democratic opening last year gave hope of a genuine breakthrough in securing respect for Kurdish linguistic, cultural and human rights in Turkey and closing the door on the years of terrorism and violence.Yet tonight Parliament joins Council and Commission in expressing our deep concern that what is closed instead with December’s Constitutional Court decision is the political party which commands the majority of the vote in the country’s Kurdish majority areas, and is what the country’s human rights association calls the ‘natural negotiator’ on behalf of the Kurdish people.
Two years ago I personally attended, as an observer, the party’s congress with some people, and saw and heard for myself their legitimacy in the eyes of their own supporters.
I acknowledge that the closure of political parties was opposed by the Turkish Prime Minister in his statement in the wake of the decision, and today’s Turkish press reports the governing party’s announced intention to prevent further unwarranted closures by bringing the Constitution into line with Article of the European Convention on Human Rights. These promises must be realised.
But it is difficult for any of us to reconcile Turkey’s call for guerrillas to come down from the mountains with the fact that other members of the same community who have chosen the path of democracy are then shown lined up in handcuffs and marched into jail. Between and 1 of the party’s members are reported to be imprisoned, many for simply speaking their own language in public.
In this European Parliament we should particularly regret the jailing of nine of the party’s elected mayors and the banning of two of its MPs.
In our Parliament, as in theirs, the reason that we have parliamentary immunity is so that we as representatives of the people can speak out without fear. The fear that we have to combat, for those of us intent on seeing Turkey join the European Union, is the misplaced fear amongst some of the majority population that, in a multi-ethnic country, what we call minority rights are a threat to the unity of the state. In modern Europe, quite simply, they are not.
So, finally, a party whose Turkish name translates as the ‘Democratic Society Party’ is gone, but its aim of a democratic society in a modern Turkey must not be lost.