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Clashes as Kurdish MPs meet
Stones thrown at Turkish riot police in Diyarbakir after political party banned.
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2009 17:31 GMT

About 10,000 Kurds gathered to welcome MPs from the outlawed Democratic Society Party [Reuters]

Kurdish protesters have clashed with police in eastern Turkey as members of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the main Kurdish party, met to discuss their next move after being banned by the country's constitutional court.

About 10,000 people turned out on Monday as Kurdish MPs arrived in the city of Diyarbakir, where they were to discuss whether to boycott parliament.

But as the gathering turned violent, Kurds threw stones at police who attempted to disperse the crowds with tear gas and water cannon.

It was the fourth consecutive day of riots following the court's decision to outlaw the political party.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Diyarbakir, said: "The streets have become a battleground where people are still waiting on a decision from the DTP on whether they will formally resign from parliament."

"Apparently no decision has been taken and reports say that the DTP are split on their next move," she said.

'PKK links'

The constitutional court banned the DTP on Friday, saying it had links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which the government has listed as a "terrorist group".

The party will formally cease to exist when the court ruling is published in the official gazette.

Members of the DTP had initially decided to withdraw from parliament on Saturday but stopped short of their resignation because of internal disagreements between party members.

Huseyin Bagci, a political analyst in the Turkish capital, Ankara, told Al Jazeera the Kurds were likely to form another party "very soon" and the DTP's closure would lead to increased tensions in Turkey.

"I think the fight of PKK is not anymore on the mountains but it will be in the cities, the big cities, in particular in Istanbul, probably Izmir, in Ankara, in Mersin."

Ahmet Turk, the chairman of the DTP, called on all Turkish parties to reconsider the ban which forces the Kurds out of the political sphere.

"Obstruction of democratic politics will deepen hopelessness. This is a fact. Turkey will not solve the problem by closing this party. My struggle will not end with the closure of the party," he said.

Al Jazeera's Khodr said that people in Diyarbakir appeared to have lost faith in the democratic process. 

"While the party [DTP] hasn't taken any decision on what they intend to do, it seems the people here have and most of them are saying that they want their MPs out of parliament and they're opting for an armed struggle."

Kurdish question

Emma Sinclair-Webb, a rapporteur from Human Rights Watch, said: "The closure of DTP is a coup against the solution for the Kurdish question and against all efforts to guarantee rights to minorities.

Stones were thrown at Turkish riot police in the eastern city of Diyarbakir [Reuters]
"The core of the constitution and the Political Parties Law has to be reviewed urgently in order to avoid this kind of closure in the future."

The ban on the DTP undermines a government drive launched in August to expand the rights of Turkey's estimated 12 million Kurds more rights in the hope of ending a 25-year armed campaign by the PKK.

Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, called for national unity following the four days of unrest sparked by the court's decision.

"We will overcome these problems as long as our nation is united and in solidarity," he told reporters when asked about the government's attempts to resolve the Kurdish question.

The DTP is the 27th political party to be shut down in Turkey since 1968.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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