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The moves toward reconciliation came to a halt after PKK militants began launching strikes in mid-2011 on Turkish soldiers and police.

“There is not a single party you can blame for the uptick in violence,” said Henri Barkey, who specializes in Turkish affairs at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

“Whenever there was a step taken toward a political solution, a spectacular PKK attack undermined this process. The initiative of 2009 was mismanaged by the government. It did not prepare the public, and it did not consult the Kurdish leaders, so it was bound to collapse.”

A new peace initiative now would be even more difficult to implement, said Fuat Keyman, director of the Istanbul Policy Center at Turkey’s Sabanci University.

“The government has adopted an increasingly hard-line and condescending stance toward the Kurds,” he said. “The AKP has lost support even in the parts of the Kurdish population that used to vote for it.”

Mr. Keyman referred to attacks such as the Dec. 29 airstrike by the Turkish army in the Uludere district near the Iraqi border. The raid was aimed at suspected PKK militants, but killed 34 Kurdish villagers, including 17 children.

Political repression

Turkey’s ruling party described the bombing as an “unfortunate operational accident.” Amnesty International has expressed concern over the lack of an investigation.

Eren Keskin, a Turkish-Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist, said Turkey’s failure to provide justice in the Uludere case is characteristic of the state’s treatment of minorities.

“The Uludere bombing killed 34 young, innocent Kurds in one go,” she said.

“The incident occurred two days before New Year’s Eve. If it had been Turkish soldiers who died, all celebrations would have been canceled and national mourning would have been declared. But the victims were Kurds, so life went on as usual.”

Last year, the sharp escalation in violence was accompanied by growing political repression, including a massive crackdown on pro-Kurdish media and arbitrary arrests of thousands of Kurdish activists, intellectuals and politicians.

Ongoing operations against suspected members of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), an illegal political organization with direct links to the PKK, are troubling human rights observers who say that people are being arrested for their political opinions and personal connections rather than on any evidence of providing logistical or material support to the rebels.

“What has emerged in the last year is a serious clampdown on legal Kurdish politics,” said Human Rights Watch’s Ms. Sinclair-Webb.

“Turkish law, as it stands, allows people to be prosecuted under terrorism laws because of their networks of association. It’s a witch hunt against particular political circles.”

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