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Turkey unveils reform steps for Kurdish minority.

Byline: Daily Star Staff

Summary: Turkey set out plans on Friday to expand the rights of its Kurdish population, including the creation of an independent body to investigate cases of torture and the loosening of restrictions on the Kurdish language.AaThe government reform initiative is seen boosting Turkey's hopes of European Union membership and stopping a conflict in which more than 40,000 people have died.

Pinar AydinliAa

ReutersAa

Aa

ANKARA: Turkey set out plans on Friday to expand the rights of its Kurdish population, including the creation of an independent body to investigate cases of torture and the loosening of restrictions on the Kurdish language.AaThe government reform initiative is seen boosting Turkey's hopes of European Union membership and stopping a conflict in which more than 40,000 people have died.Aa

But in a show of the resistance the reform process faces in Parliament, the main opposition party CHP walked out of the chamber on Friday after Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused opponents of not wanting an end to the conflict.Aa

The initiative builds on steps which Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP) government has already taken to expand cultural rights for Kurds, such as the launch of a state-run Kurdish language television channel.Aa

"An independent anti-discrimination commission will be established and a bill related to this will be sent to Parliament," Interior Minister Besir Atalay told Parliament. The commission will aim to prevent torture and mistreatment.Aa

Atalay said Turkey needs a new, libertarian Constitution as the existing one does not meet Turkey's needs.Aa

The AK Party also plans to allow Kurdish to be used during political campaigning.Aa

"The steps that will allow political parties to address the people in different languages and dialects used by citizens during election campaigns are among these," Atalay said, adding Turkey would remain a unitary state.Aa

Kurdish-majority towns will officially be able to regain their old Kurdish names replacing their new, Turkish names.Aa

The reform is designed to encourage the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerrilla group to disband. Kurds have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the state.Aa

The PKK, branded a terrorist group by Ankara, Washington and the EU, launched an armed campaign in 1984 with the goal of creating an ethnic homeland for Kurds in Turkey's southeast.Aa

The chairman of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), which has long been accused of having links to the PKK, said the Turkish state needed a change of mentality.Aa

"If the proposed solutions are serious, weapons can be laid down in three months," Demcratic Society Party chairman Ahmet Turk said.Aa

CHP party leader Deniz Baykal, who has said the reforms threaten to undermine Turkey's unity, accused Erdogan of preparing a "plan to destroy and split Turkey."Aa

Erdogan then answered: "There are some people who want martyrs [dead Turkish soldiers] so they can exploit it better," prompting a walkout by Baykal and his MPs.Aa

Timothy Ash, emerging markets analyst from Royal Bank of Scotland, said Erdogan's Kurdish strategy was high risk.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Nov 14, 2009
Words:527
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