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Kurdish MPs quit Turkish parliament
Clashes between protesters and police in Diyarbakir as legislators of banned party meet.
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2009 18:20 GMT

There have been four days of angry protests since the Democratic Society Party was banned [Reuters]

Members of Turkey's main Kurdish party have said that they will resign from parliament after the the Democratic Society Party (DTP), was banned by the country's constitutional court.

The party's MPs made their decision on Monday at a meeting in the eastern city of Diyarbakir, which had earlier seen violent clashes between Turkish police and Kurds angry at the ban.

Ahmet Turk, the leader of the party who was expelled by the constitutional court's decision along with another legislator on Friday, said the remaining 19 DTP legislators would submit "their resignations to the parliament in the shortest time."

"We don't think our struggle for peace will be understood even if we stay in the parliament," he said.

The parliament has to approve any resignations before they take effect and its seems unlikely that they would do so as it could encourage MPs from other parties to follow suit, triggering early elections.

"If the resignations are not accepted, they will stay as MPs and maybe they will be obliged to form a new party, but we are still waiting for the parliament’s decision on the issue," Hasan Koni, a professor of law and international relations at Istanbul University, told Al Jazeera.

"If the resignations are  accepted, this means there will be more clashes and the security forces will not be able to handle the PKK."

'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 closure of DTP is a coup against the solution for the Kurdish question"

Emma Sinclair-Webb,
Human Rights Watch

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 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."

It has already prompted four consecutive days of unrest in Diyarbakir and other cities. In the latest violence, protesters threw stones at police who responded with tear gas and water cannon.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Diyabakir, said that people in the eastern city appeared to have lost faith in the democratic process.

"The Kurds have lost their political voice in government and apparently earlier today there seemed to have been a split and that’s why the decision was delayed."

"The fear now is violence on the streets and the Kurds now feel that they won't be able to get their rights through a democratic process," she said.

Kurdish question

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

Stones were thrown at Turkish riot police in the eastern city of Diyarbakir [Reuters]

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.

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.

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

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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