Detention of Tahir Elçi

Tahir Elçi, a prominent lawyer and chair of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, was detained last Monday for spreading Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) propaganda. Previously, Elçi appeared in Ahmet Hakan’s “Neutral Zone” program on CNN Turk and said that “the PKK is not a terrorist organization. Rather, it is an armed political organization which has large local support.” I watched the program and understood his words as meaning “the PKK is not only a terrorist organization.”

During the peace process, which was started by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in late 2012, many people in Turkey said things that echoed the sentiment of Elçi’s words. AKP deputy and Kurdish intellectual Orhan Miroğlu, Sabah daily columnist Emre Aköz and intellectual and academician Nuray Mert had all suggesed similar things.

In fact, it is obvious that you can’t understand the reality of the PKK if you only call it a terrorist organization. Since 1984, more than 25,000 PKK militants have been killed by Turkish security forces. Currently, the PKK has more than 5,000 active militants located in northern Iraq. Those numbers mean Turkey has effectively finished off at least five PKK groups and is now fighting a sixth. If it was just a terrorist organization without any political background and people’s support behind it, the PKK would have been dissolved before now. Elçi and others, righteously, underlined this reality.
The pathetic threat perception of the 1990’s has been revived in 2015. The AKP ended the Kurdish peace process because it saw it as dangerous and harmful for its survival. The AKP thought that carrying on the peace process would not benefit their political movement and that it would decrease the party’s votes during elections. However, nearly all polls show that the political movements that support the peace process benefited in the June 7 elections and that this rise is likely to continue on Nov. 1. This means the majority of this country’s citizens support the idea and implementation of the peace process. The AKP could not read this, so preferred to choose a security-based approach like Turkey did during the 1990’s.
Following Elçi’s detention, it was so good to see that democratic figures in Turkey and abroad such as human rights groups, rights-based organizations and legal organizations gave an immediate and unanimous reaction to the government as his detention was seen as a political message to the Kurdish movement. After the great reaction shown, Elçi was released two days ago.
Detention is a measure to be used after the relevant person doesn’t come upon being called to court or if it is not possible to deliver that call. Elçi is the chair of a bar association, with his home and work address known to government officials. Furthermore, he declared to journalists that he was waiting in his office to be called by the court, when he unfortunately saw the police officers who came to take him to the court. The Bakırköy 2nd Peace Criminal judge’s decision is so wrong that he can’t know anything about the detention concept in general. These judges were previously presented and promoted as “freedom judges.” Ironically, we do not remember a single of their decisions regarding freedom.