Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Saturday, 12 December 2009

Pro-Kurd party MPs to withdraw from Turkey's parliament


Pro-Kurd supporters clash with police in Hakkari

MPs from a pro-Kurdish party say they will withdraw from Turkey's parliament in protest at the Constitutional Court ruling to dissolve their party.

The court voted on Friday to ban the Democratic Society Party (DTP) because of alleged links with Kurdish separatist rebels.

Turkey's largest pro-Kurdish party has 21 MPs, two of whom have been banned from politics for five years.

It is the latest in a series of pro-Kurdish parties to be closed down.

The EU, which Turkey hopes to join, has expressed concern over the ruling.

There have been clashes between Kurdish protesters and Turkish security forces in at least two eastern cities following the ban.

Middle path

The DTP MPs had threatened to resign their seats if the party was banned, even though they have the option of remaining in parliament as independents.

Instead they have taken a middle path, not resigning, but withdrawing from all parliamentary business, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul.

But the verdict of the Constitutional Court has shut down the only political mouthpiece of the Kurds, our correspondent says.

DTP chairman Ahmet Turk 11.12.09
DTP chairman Ahmet Turk says closing pro-Kurdish parties is not the answer

Almost immediately, angry crowds in the mainly Kurdish south-east vented their anger by clashing with riot police.

The ruling comes four months since the government promised a new beginning in the state's relationship with its largest minority.

It had hoped that by offering reforms giving the Kurds greater freedom of expression, it could cut support for the armed campaign, which has been waged by the militant PKK for the past 25 years, our correspondent says.

But there has been a strong nationalist backlash against the initiative, fired up by a series of provocative incidents which culminated in the killing this week of seven police officers by the PKK, he says.

Hopes for a political settlement to the Kurdish conflict rested to a large extent on the growing co-operation between the government and the DTP.

It has now become the 10th pro-Kurdish party to be banned by the Constitutional Court, and party leaders have warned that its closure can only cause greater feelings of frustration and hopelessness within the Kurdish community, our correspondent adds.

Some 40,000 people have died since the outlawed PKK launched an armed campaign in the mainly Kurdish south-east in 1984.

Kurds make up about 20% of Turkey's population of more than 70 million.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and the US.

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