Kurdish politician flees Turkey: Asylum in Greece

A Kurdish politician whose party was dissolved by Turkey last year has requested asylum in Greece after his arrest at Thessaloniki airport.

Mustafa Sarikaya, 46, was detained last week after airport police found a fake passport among his belongings and charged him with illegal entry.

But the former deputy chairman of the now-defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP) was released after persuading a court that his life was in danger in Turkey, where he has spent a total of 20 years in prison.

Sarikaya was travelling from Paphos in Cyprus to Sofia, Bulgaria.

Turkey’s shortcomings in respecting political rights have been among numerous obstacles holding up its accession talks with the European Union.

The decision by Turkey’s constitutional court in 2009 to dissolve the DTP for alleged links with the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had been criticised by the EU’s Swedish presidency at the time.

Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million.

PKK’s demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK president, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

PKK demanded to stop military and political operations and to release Kurdish politicians who are unjustly detained. The organization also requested to enable imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s active participation in the process.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

29 December 2010


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