Turkey on Kurdish minority party crisis (1994)

Suggested Citation: Neophytos G. Loizides, Greek-Turkish Negotiations and Crises 1983-2003 Dataset , Queen's University Belfast (available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentrefortheStudyofEthnicConflict/TeachingResearch/Datasets/Greek-TurkishNegotiationsandCrises1983-2003/#d.en.173636)

Case Summary:

This case study examines Turkish crisis behavior over politicized Kurdish identity in the mid-1990s. The ethnic Kurdish party HEP enters the parliament under the umbrella of the leftist SHP in the October 1991 elections. Due to later discrepancies with regard to government's handling of the Kurdish issues, 16 Kurdish deputies split from the SHP and create the Democracy Party (DEP), which is later renamed the People's Democracy Party (HADEP) when the DEP is banned in 1994. During the same year, Kurdish MPs are accused of “attempted violation of Turkey's territorial integrity,” and of “having links with guerrilla PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party).”[i] In March 1994, the parliament decides to lift the immunity of some of those MPs.[ii] Lexis/Nexis provides 33 results for the terms “Turkey,” “Kurds,” and “immunity” for the period 3/1/1994 to 4/1/1994 (full text search under European News Sources).

Case Study Features

Effectiveness of Offensive Policies: 1

Turkey has to act quickly to prevent the internationalization of the Kurdish question attempted by the Kurdish MPs. During their frequent trips abroad, the Kurdish MPs have successfully attracted sympathy for their cause. However, the imprisonment of the Kurdish MPs carries many risks for Turkey’s campaign for EU candidacy. Given that this prospect is far off, and that Turkey enjoys a favorable position as a Middle Eastern country and the only NATO neighbor of Iraq, Iran, and Syria, it feels it has the upper hand on the Kurdish issue.

Offensive vs. Defensive Signals Indistinguishable: 0

Minority issues often contain this element of indistinguishability. Policies aiming to defend the minority can be perceived as threatening to the majority. In this case, the struggle of the MPs is purely defensive, and this is how it is portrayed by the international media. The ambiguity in incentives is not reflected by third party analyses.

Enduring Ethnic Rivalries: 1

Rivalries result from PKK activities since the mid-1980s.

Domestic Challenges: 1

The Turkish military threatens a coup.[iii] There are no national elections scheduled for the following six months, but local elections are taking place that month. [iv]

Confrontational Policies (dependent variable): 1

DEP is banned, and Kurdish MPs are first expelled from the parliament and later imprisoned on terrorist charges.[v]


[i] Nadire Mater and Bob Mantiri, “Turkey-Politics: Kurdish Deputies Anxiously Await Court’s Verdict”, IPS-Inter Press Service, December 7, 1994.

[ii] “Turkey lifts parliamentary immunity on Kurdish deputies”,  Agence France Presse, March 02, 1994.

[iii] Andrew Borowiec, “Turkey worn down by internal miseries; Dogmatic military watches, grows restless,” The Washington Times, March 23, 1994, p.14.

[iv] Zeynep Alemdar, “Ciller's Center-Right Party Heads For Win in Turkey”, The Associated Press, March 28, 1994.

[v] Alistair Bell, “Human rights groups protest over sentence on Kurdish MPs,” The Herald (Glasgow), December 9, 1994, p.6; Three of those MPs including internationally known Leyla Zayna were kept in prison until recently Helena Smith, “Kurd MPs freed as Turkey lifts broadcast ban,” The Guardian, June 10, 2004,  p. 15.