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December 2009 Kurdish protests in Turkey


December 2009 Kurdish protests in Turkey

December 2009 Kurdish protests
Part of Kurdish–Turkish conflict, Serhildan
Date December 11-December 15, 2009
Location  Turkey
 Iraqi Kurdistan
Causes Ban of the Democratic Society Party by the Constitutional Court of Turkey
Parties to the civil conflict

Kurdish protesters

Lead figures

3 killed[1][2]
8 injured[1][3]

32 arrested[3][4]
5 police injured[3]

The December 2009 Kurdish protests in Turkey were five[1] days of protests in Turkey that ensued after a December 11, 2009 ruling by the Constitutional Court of Turkey that banned pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), after finding them guilty of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)[5] and spreading "terrorist propaganda."[6]


  • Background 1
  • The protests 2
    • Iraqi Kurdistan 2.1
  • Reactions 3
    • Turkey 3.1
    • International 3.2
  • Aftermath 4
  • References 5


The DTP was formed in 2005 with a merger of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party, the Democratic People's Party (DEHAP), and the newly found Democratic Society Movement (DTH) that had been founded by former Democracy Party (DEP) MPs Leyla Zana, Orhan Doğan, Hatip Dicle and Selim Sadak after their release from prison in 2004. After being formed, the party called on the PKK to lay down its arms. The PKK responded by declaring a unilateral cease-fire that lasted until September 20, 2005.[7]

The DEHAP had won 6.2 percent of the vote in the 2002 general election, failing to meet the 10% election threshold and thus failing to win any seats in parliament. So for the 2007 general election the DTP fielded its candidates as independents.[8] In total, 726 independent candidates won 1,835,486 votes, a total of 5.24% and 26 out of 550 seats in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.[9] 21 independents then formed a DTP faction in parliament.[10] The election was however mainly a disappointment for the DTP as majority of votes in the Kurdish-dominated regions went to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP).[9] The party however performed well during the March 29, 2009 local elections, winning 2,116,684 votes or 5.41% and doubling its number of governors from four to eight, increasing its amount of mayors from 32 to 51.[11] For the first time they won a majority in the southeast and aside from the Batman Province, Hakkâri Province, Diyarbakır Province and Şırnak Province which DEHAP had won in 2004, the DTP managed to win Van Province, Siirt Province and Iğdır Provinces from the AKP.[12]

After the March 2009 election, approximately 50 DTP members were arrested. Between April and August 2009, more than 500 DTP members were taken into custody and 267 were indicted. According to the Turkish Human Rights Association, the government carried out three crackdowns against the DTP between April and October 2009 in which 1,000 people were detained, including 450 who were not told what they were being charged with.[13]

After surviving a closure case in 2007,[13] on December 11, 2009, the Constitutional Court of Turkey voted to ban the DTP, ruling that the party had links to the PKK[5] and was guilty of spreading "terrorist propaganda".[6] Chairman Ahmet Türk and co-chair Aysel Tuğluk were expelled from Parliament, and they and 35 other party members, including Leyla Zana, were banned from joining any political party for five years.[14] The 19 DTP members that remained in parliament joined the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which had already been formed in anticipation of the ban.[13]

The protests

In protest of the ban, the 19[13] remaining DTP MPs boycotted parliamentary sessions. Meanwhile violent protests broke out all over Turkey's predominantly Kurdish region and in Western cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir[4] and lasted the whole weekend.[3] Protesters through rocks and firebombs at the police.[2]

On December 11, shortly after the verdict was announced, over 1,000 people gathered outside the DTP offices in Diyarbakır chanting "Blood for blood! Revenge!" Protesters hurled petrol bombs at police and smashed security cameras. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons. In Istanbul 100 people gathered around the local DTP office chanting "An End to the Attacks on the Kurdish People" and "We are all Kurds, we all belong to the DTP."[15] In Hakkâri police had to use water cannons to break up protests.[16]

On December 12, DTP managers intervened to save a police chief and a police officer from being lynched[3] by a crowd of over 1,000[17] angry protesters in Hakkâri, a young girl was hospitalized during the protests[3] and over a dozen protesters were arrested.[4] In Van five policemen were hospitalized after violent clashes with protesters, including deputy police chief Öner Okşar who was wounded by a stone thrown to his head. 20 people were taken into custody during the protest in Van.[3] In Beytüşşebap and Cizre districts of Şırnak province the protests continued until late in the night, as protesters threw Molotov cocktails and stones at buildings such as post offices, banks and the Beytüşşebap district governor's house. In Cizre protesters blocked the road of the Habur Customs Gate, closing off the road to Iraq. Police had to intervene to re-open the road.[3] 50 DTP members held a sit-in in Iğdır. Another sit-in was held in Şanlıurfa, during which slogans were chanted that praised the PKK's imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan.[3]

On December 13, 2009, protests continued Yüksekova district and police used tear gas and water pressure against protesters which barricaded roads and started fires in the streets. Shops were closed in all city centers of Hakkâri during the weekend.[3] Yüksekova protests had been ongoing since Saturday as crowds of DTP supporters threw firebombs and rocks at police vehicles.[4]

In Istanbul angry crowds of Turkish Nationalists and Kurdish Nationalists clashed in Istanbul during a second day of pro-DTP protests.[2] Protesters clashed with locals in Dolapdere after a press conference was held at the DTP's Istanbul Province headquarters in Beyoğlu district and around 200 protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at buildings and cars and Turkish residents responded with knives, guns and baseball bats. Although intervened to prevent the situation from getting out of hand,[3] at least one person died during the clashes from gunshot wounds.[2] In Istanbul's European side, 200 people, mainly Kurdish children closed traffic and threw stones at buses in Sultangazi and Başakşehir districts. Police intervened with tear gas.[3]

December 14, 2009, over 5,000 people Diyarbakır welcomed DTP MPs which drove into the town in an open bus. The protest was largely peaceful until a group of youths started pelting police with rocks and ripped up street signs, police responded with water cannons. Protesters also stoned a local AKP office and carried portraits of Abdullah Öcalan. Several protesters were arrested. In Doğubeyazıt protesters threw petrol bombs and stones at police and police responded with tear gas and water cannons.[18]

On December 15, 2009,[2] during a fifth day of unrest 2 Kurdish protesters were killed and 7 injured when a shop keeper opened fire on a crowd of protesters in Bulanık, Muş Province with an assault rifle after the windows of his shop had been broken.[1][17]

Iraqi Kurdistan

On December 16, hundreds of people protested in the Kurdistan Region's capital Erbil to protest the ban.[19]

On December 17, over 500 Kurds from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey protested the ban in Sulaymaniyah.[19]



  • [3]
  • [4]
  • Republican People's Party (CHP): Deniz Baykal released the following statement concerning the ban: "It is impossible to greet such events with happiness. It is saddening for all of us in democracies when there is the obligation to close a political party."[20]
  • Nationalist Movement Party (MHP): Devlet Bahçeli said it would be preferable to punish individual politicians rather than banning entire parties, but said that there "could be a different approach for the case when political parties were seen as supporting terrorism and considering it a means for their separatist aims."[20]
  • Democratic Society Party (DTP): Ahmet Türk called the court's ruling political and not lawful. He blamed the AKP over its silence regarding the ruling.[17] DTP members responded by boycotting parliamentary sessions.[4]

Turkey's EU negotiator Egemen Bağış criticized the ruling, saying that courts should hold politicians rather than political parties responsible for unlawful actions.[17]


  •  Iraqi Kurdistan
    • Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG): President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani's office released a statement declaring: "The KRP was pleased with the recent reforms and conciliatory policies introduced by [Turkey's ruling] Justice and Development Party (AKP) to engage with the Kurds and hopes that the court's decision does not derail this important process from going forward." KRG spokesman Hadi Mahmud said that the KRG would not interfere in Turkey's internal issues and called the ban an internal issue.[19]
    • Goran Movement: Kurdistan National Assembly Jaafar Ali, from the opposition Goran movement however criticized the KRG for its muted response and released a statement saying that "The Goran movement condemns the ban and sees it as a step against democracy. This is a clear violation of the political rights of Kurds. This step tells us that the Kurdish initiative has yet to take hold in Turkish society or politics."[19]
    • Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU): The KIU released the following statement regarding the ban: "Unfortunately, this decision is a big obstacle for the encouraging and democratic Kurdish initiative of the AKP," and called on the Turkish government to be pragmatic in dealing with the issue.[19]
  •  European Union: the Presidency of the Council of the European Union press office released the following statement about the court's verdicht: "While strongly denouncing violence and terrorism, the Presidency recalls that the dissolution of political parties is an exceptional measure that should be used with utmost restraint. The EU has called on Turkey, as a negotiating country, to make the necessary constitutional amendments to bring its legislation on political parties in line with the recommendations by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and relevant provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights."[17]
  •  United States: A spokesman for the United States Department of State called the ruling an internal matter, but he added that Turkey should advance political freedom for all its citizens and that measures that "limit or restrain these freedoms should be exercised with extreme caution".[17]



  1. ^ a b c d Two killed in Kurdish ban protests
  2. ^ a b c d e Timeline Kurdistan
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m DTP protests turn violent in Istanbul
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Violence follows DTP ban in Turkey
  5. ^ a b Kurdish unrest erupts in Turkey after DTP ban
  7. ^ Bumps in Road to EU Accession Expose Cyprus, Kurdish Potholes
  8. ^ Opposition for the Sake of Opposition? Polarized Pluralism in Turkish Politics
  10. ^ Political parties in Turkey
  11. ^ Ruling party main loser in local ballot
  13. ^ a b c d Democratic Society Party (Democratik Toplum Partisi, DTP)
  14. ^ Hacaoglu, Selcan (2009-12-11). "Turkey bans pro-Kurdish party over ties to rebels". Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  15. ^ Google News Turkey's top court bans Kurdish party
  16. ^ BBC News Turkish top court bans pro-Kurdish party
  17. ^ a b c d e f Police and protesters clash after court bans Turkish party
  18. ^ EU criticises Turkey's court ban of Kurdish party
  19. ^ a b c d e Turkey Ban Draws Kurdish Ire
  20. ^ a b [1]
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