(PAK) will pursue independence or a Turkish-Kurdish federation “through political and legal means,” PAK leader Mustafa Ozcelik
New Kurdish independence party in Turkey ‘good for democracy’
– A new Kurdish nationalist party is pursuing independence for Turkish Kurds, but observers question its chances of success.
The Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) will pursue independence or a Turkish-Kurdish federation “through political and legal means,” PAK leader Mustafa Ozcelik told Rudaw.
“If the Turkish state ideology of ‘one people, one language, one flag’ continues, we have a right to separate ourselves from Turkey and seek an independent state,” he said.
The Kurds – Turkey’s largest ethnic minority comprising about a fifth of the population – have long sought greater autonomy.
Use of the Kurdish language still faces restrictions and Kurdish children cannot receive education in their mother tongue in public schools. Reforms introduced by the Turkish government in recent years were welcome but insufficient, Ozcelik said.
Currently, the DBP/HDP is the largest pro-Kurdish grouping in Turkish politics, pursuing a policy of autonomy within Turkey’s borders. The grouping is an alliance of The Democratic Regions Party, (formerly the BDP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party.
The PAK believes such autonomy is insufficient. “Having an independent state is a protection against persecution and massacres,” says Ozcelik.
Ozcelik said the PAK did not plan to take votes away from the DBP.
“It is not democratic to have a one-party system and it will be against pluralism and freedom of expression,” the party leader said. “DBP usually gets 2-3 million votes out of the 20 million Kurds in Turkey. Our focus and aim are the remaining Kurdish votes.”
Observers question the PAK’s ability to attract significant support. Huseyin Seyhanlioglu, associate professor at Dicle University in Diyarbakir, said most Turkish Kurds want to remain part of Turkey. In recent years, surveys have indicated that 15-20% support Kurdish independence and a similar number want a federation, he said.
“From opinion polls we can see that a majority of Kurds want more cultural and linguistic rights, instead of independence or federation,” Seyhanlioglu told Rudaw.
With many Kurds now living in western Turkey – according to Seyhanlioglu up to half of Turkey’s Kurds – support for an independent Kurdish state in eastern Turkey is unlikely to increase.
Other smaller nationalist Kurdish parties already exist in Turkey, including the Rights and Freedom Party (HAK-PAR), Participatory Democracy Party (KADEP) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Turkey (KDPT). Seyhanlioglu noted that these parties had failed to attract significant support, with Kurdish voters preferring the DBP/HDP.
However, he believed it was a positive development for the Kurdish community in Turkey, where the most powerful Kurdish nationalist movement, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is designated a terrorist group by Turkey the United States and Europe.
“The DBP/HDP has a tendency to think that they alone should represent the Kurds in Turkey,” Seyhanlioglu said. “The formation of PAK is positive and necessary for pluralism, democracy and diversity.”
The PAK developed from the Kurdistani Party Initiative, which formed two years ago at a meeting in Diyarbakir in eastern Turkey attended by 400 delegates from Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Kurdish areas in Turkey.
The PAK will now apply to Turkey’s Interior Ministry to register the party.