Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party called on Friday for marches in three major cities this weekend to launch a summer of protests aimed at raising pressure on the government to carry out reforms under a peace process with Kurdish militants.
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants began withdrawing from Turkish territory to bases in northern Iraq last month as part of a deal between the state and the group’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan to end a conflict which has killed 40,000.
There has been little evidence of progress this month with public attention focused instead on weeks of broader and often violent anti-government demonstrations in cities across Turkey.
But the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said the withdrawal was continuing successfully and the process had entered a second stage during which Ankara needed to boost the rights of Kurds, who make up some 20 percent of the 76-million-strong population.
“The government must urgently take the necessary democratic steps, listen to the demands of the people and fulfill the requirements of the second stage,” the BDP said in a statement declaring a summer of protest action.
It said it would start with marches on Sunday in Diyarbakir, Mersin and Adana, which were likely to attract thousands of demonstrators. Diyarbakir is the main city in the mainly Kurdish southeast. Mersin and Adana, in the eastern Mediterranean region, have large populations of Kurdish migrants.
Turkish authorities have already had to deal with three weeks of street unrest in cities including Ankara and Istanbul this month in which riot police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators night after night.
The BDP campaign will call for a halt to the construction of military outposts in southeast Turkey, the release of political prisoners, education in Kurdish, lowering of the threshold of 10electoral support required to enter parliament, and the release of Ocalan.
It has presented to the government a 25-article package of proposals on which action needed to be taken urgently, the BDP said.
Turkish media said Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told a commission of “wise people” advising on the peace process this week that the peace process had still not entered the second stage as only 15 percent of PKK fighters had so far left Turkey.
BDP leader Selahattin Demirtas responded by saying that at least 80 percent of the militants had either left Turkey or wereen route to their bases in northern Iraq.
The BDP”s concern about the lack of headway on reforms is heightened by the prospect of parliament entering its three-month summer recess early in July.
The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, took up arms against the state in1984 with the aim of carving out a Kurdish state, but subsequently moderated its goal to autonomy.