Kurdish peace process falters after Turkey protests

Turkey Protests

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reaffirmed his commitment to a full reconciliation with Turkey's estimated 15 million Kurds, but events of recent weeks suggest the peace process may already be unravelling.

Since the streets of Istanbul erupted on May 31, swiftly followed by other Turkish cities, the process that began with the ceasefire declared by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on March 21 has faded into the background.

Last Tuesday Erdogan called for patience and restated his commitment to the peace process, vowing that "nothing" would stop him from seeing it through.

The prime minister has failed to quell discontent over his increasingly autocratic style among Turks, and the country's Kurds are also growing tired of vague promises and a

failure to implement demands for greater recognition.

Promises were made to strengthen "individual liberties", but the government has so far failed to respond to Kurds' demands for recognition in the constitution and to allow the Kurdish language to be taught in state schools.

Mustafa Sentop, president of the cross-party constitution conciliation commission, said just a third of the proposals could be accepted by his Justice and Development party (AKP), of which Erdogan is the leader."This isn't moving forward," Sentop said.

For Cengiz Aktar, professor of politics at Bahcesehir university in Istanbul, the protests of recent weeks will make the Kurds' demands ever harder to attain.

"The Turkish government's capacity to complete the peace process with the Kurds has been sorely tested by the protests," he said.

"Someone who cannot allow peaceful demonstrations cannot offer a democratic solution," he added, saying he believed a political solution was now "less likely" than before.

Erdogan's recent comments came in the wake of the death of a young Kurdish man during a protest against the construction of a police station on June 28 in the southeastern town of Lice, near Diyarbakir, which triggered a day of rallies in the region organised by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

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