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Negotiations towards solution to Turkey's Kurdish question must continue

THE only conclusion that can be drawn at this stage from the shocking murder of the three Kurdish women activists in Paris is that this was a political act by someone to derail the efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey ("Paris deaths threaten Kurdish peace talks", The Herald, January 11).

That the perpetrators could be linked to interests within the Turkish establishment or within the PKK does not make the murders any less outrageous.

I have visited Turkey twice to meet Kurdish activists and witnessed on each occasion instances of state intervention against ordinary citizens participating in democratic and peaceful activities. This seemed to be regular and normal behaviour.

Trade unionists, lawyers and human rights activists as well as the members of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) made it clear to me that they were determined to continue asserting their democratic rights to seek a better life and a peaceful solution.

However, expressing their views on subjects such as the right of children to be taught in their mother tongue of Kurdish, to give their children a Kurdish name, to broadcast in the Kurdish language, to set up Kurdish language classes, resulted in them being arrested and charged with supporting a terrorist organisation, that is, the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party).

Over many years it has become clear that the government cannot achieve peace through the continued suppression of Kurdish rights. It is also clear that a military struggle by the PKK cannot achieve a breakaway separate Kurdish state and that a solution will need to be found using democratic means based on human rights and respect for minorities within Turkey. This was the conclusion and advice of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the PKK.

I was present in the Kurdish region during the Turkish general election in 2011 when Kurdish activists, standing as independents, were elected in record numbers as MPs. The sense of optimism that the democratic route would lead to progress was quickly smashed as some of these newly-elected MPs were barred from parliament and arrested for allegedly supporting the PKK. Since then there have been hundreds of lawyers, journalists, and trade unionists arrested for protesting or speaking out against this attack on democratically-elected representatives. The opportunity presented by the democratic gains was completely lost due to the actions of the Turkish authorities. This clearly helps those who still see armed struggle as a way forward to gain greater sympathy.

The recent developments where the government has indicated that it will resume talks with Ocalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, have raised hopes again of a peaceful solution.

It is time for the Turkish Government to receive clear messages from the international community, including the UK Government, that negotiations are the only way forward.

Stephen Smellie,

3 Galston Court,

Hamilton.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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