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Closing largest Kurdish party DTP, Turkey could stall reform efforts

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There is also concern that a growing stand-off between Turkish and Kurdish nationalists and an increase in ethnic tensions in Turkey’s restive southeast could strengthen the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which Ankara, the US, and the European Union consider a terrorist organization.

Analysts warn, meanwhile, that the party’s closure will only work to undermine the development of a moderate Kurdish political movement in Turkey.

“It was such a mistake to close down these Kurdish parties in the past. Had they not been closed down, they would have become much stronger than the armed wing of the Kurdish movement. But what we have here now is the opposite,” says Sahin Alpay, a professor of political science at Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University.

Closing DTP tests commitment to Kurdish-friendly reforms

The court’s decision comes only a few weeks after the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) formally announced in parliament its “democratization initiative” – a raft of reforms designed to give Turkey’s Kurds increased political and cultural rights. Among the planned changes are the easing of restrictions on private Kurdish-language television stations and Kurdish language faculties in universities, as well as allowing towns and villages to once again use their original Kurdish names.

But observers warn the closing of the DTP will put the government’s plan to the test.

“No matter how much the governing party repeats the opposite, from now on the initiative will only remain a theory. It will for sure start all over again sometime in the future but for now the process has stopped,” political analyst Mehmet Ali Birand wrote in a recent column in the English-language Hurriyet Daily News. “Whether we like it or not ... whether we think it’s sufficient or insufficient, the initiative movement that [the government] started got stuck in the political swamp of Turkey.”

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