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Law enforcement or repression in Turkey?

The outlawed PKK isn't the only pro-Kurdish party in Ankara's sights.

A girl holds a portrait of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan during a gathering to celebrate Newroz in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir March 21, 2009. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

ISTANBUL — In a new chapter of an old conflict, Turkey has intensified its decades-long political and military fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK.

Just as Ankara began a renewed push to enhance ties with the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, Turkish security forces last month initiated a series of operations across Turkey targeting the PKK.

Labeled a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, the PKK has been fighting for Kurdish rule in the country's southeast since the early 1980s. The conflict has cost about 40,000 lives and has left its mark on political and economic development in the country.

But the largest of the recent security operations, launched in the early morning of April 14, targeted the pro-Kurdish Kurdistan Society Party (DTP), which is represented in parliament, in addition to the PKK. Of the more than 100 people arrested, 80 have been charged, including senior members of the DTP and the mayors of a number of provinces.

Security force officials often accuse the DTP of being a front for the PKK, a charge denied by the party.

Ahmet Turk, who leads the DTP, angrily denounced the raids, casting them as a reaction by the ruling party to unfavorable results in the March local elections, and as being against the law and principles of democracy.

The DTP easily defeated the ruling AK Party in the elections in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of the country, a region that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had high hopes of winning.

The recent raids inflamed tensions in the southeast, triggering large-scale protests. DTP deputies staged a sit-in at the parliament followed by a two-day hunger strike.

DTP leader Ahmet Turk said several Kurdish-origin lawmakers and mayors are taking part in the protest that began in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir.

“The operations might have been justified but they have also been widened to include DTP senior officials being arrested or detained,” said Lale Sariibrahimoglu, a columnist at the Turkish daily, Today’s Zaman. “This has created a question mark about whether they were meant to sabotage a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question.”