Monday, 13 June 2011

Leyla Zana wins seat in Turkish Election a cause for celebration.

News that the Kurdish Nationalist Party The Peace and Democracy Party BDP  has effectively won 36 seats in the  Turkish General Election (up 16) is welcome . I used the term effectively because the Members have been elected as Independents since there is a 10% electoral threshold and as the Kurds make up an estimate of 6-23% of the population make it almost impossible for a Kurdish party to meet..

Amongst those elected on perhaps what we can call The BDP coupon  is Leyla Zana  who is a particular heroine of the Kurdish National cause .

Mrs Zana, who had two children and only one year of schooling, became a leading campaigner for Kurdish prisoners, and in 1991 she was elected the first Kurdish woman MP.

While taking the oath of loyalty in parliament, she  caused an uproar in Turkish Parliament after adding the following sentence in Kurdish to her parliamentary oath during the swearing-in ceremony in 1994:

"I take this oath for the brotherhood of the Turkish and Kurdish peoples".
Because of this in March 1994, the Turkish Parliament voted to lift the immunity of Zana and five other Kurdish DEP members: and they  were sentenced to 15 years in jail by the Supreme Court.

In 2001 the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Turkey after a review of her trial; although Turkey did not recognize the result, in 2003 a new harmonization law permitted retrials based on ECHR decisions. In 2002, a film named The Back of the World, directed by Spanish-Peruvian filmmaker Javier Corcuera, examined her case. In April 2004, in a trial which the defendants frequently boycotted, their convictions and sentences were reaffirmed. In June 2004, after a prosecutor requested quashing the prior verdict on a technicality, the High Court of Appeals ordered Zana and the others released.

Since then she has constantly charged with offenses that we would have regarded as quite legitimate in our own democracy.

Not quite though though the argument over the swearing of the oath of loyalty to the Queen of England which recently was highlighted  by the  Boycott of the opening of the fourth Assembly whilst in no way matches the repressive actions of the Turkish State on Layla Zane and other Kurds has a degree of denial of the rights of democratic groups who philosophy different from that of the State to sit in their Legislators.

Clearly one of the reasons why the outrage  a woman was imprisoned for speaking  for 15 years  her own Language was that Turkey has been seen as valuable ally of the West. And it typical of the hypocrisy of Western Government that they do condemn Turkey whole heartily on the their treatment of the Kurdish people  in the same way they condemn Saddam Hussein treatment of the Kurds in Iraq despite the  blatant similarities.

The Kurds are most misused ethnic group in the World  they have no Nation State they can call they own as they have divided up between various other Nations. They have used terrorism as means of an end but often this seen by them as the only option and whilst in no way condoning such acts by organisations such as the
PKK. The Turkish authorities a have used as an excuse to exclude and even imprison though like Leyla Zane.

Hopefully one of the condition placed on any Turkish application to join the European Union will be one that recognises the rights of the Kurdish People to the democratic process. I would have liked to have written the Rights of the Kurdish People to self determination but whilst existing members like Spain  deny that opportunity to Basques and Catalans it would not be possible to do so.

The election of Leyla Zane and her colleagues is one for welcome but the victory of the ruling AKP a socially Conservative party  that will seek to amend the Turkish Constitution in order to consolidate its power is not.

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