Kurd PKK rebels receive hero's welcome,
Turkish govt under fire
DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of
Turkey, — Tens of thousands of cheering Kurds
greeted Wednesday a group of rebels who "surrendered"
in a good-will gesture to Turkey as the government
came under fire for treating "terrorists" leniently.
Amid a display of fireworks, about 100,000 people
greeted the group in Diyarbakir, the largest city of
the Kurdish-majority southeast, a day after the
authorities let them walk free following their
arrival from mountainous bases in Iraqi Kurdistan
Brandishing flags of the outlawed Turkey's Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK) and posters of its jailed leader
crowd chanted "Long live peace" as songs praising
the 25-year insurgency against Ankara blared from
"Fighters of the free people, welcome to your
capital," one banner read.
The eight PKK militants crossed from Iraq to Turkey
Monday, turning themselves in to the authorities in
a show of support for government plans to broaden
Kurdish freedoms and end hostilities.
Judicial officials at the border questioned and
released them Tuesday pending trial, in an unusually
lenient gesture for a country where many end up in
jail for simply expressing sympathy for the PKK,
considered a terrorist group by Ankara.
Thousands of people gathered in the southeastern
Kurdish city of Diyarbakir on Wednesday, October 21,
2009 evening to greet a group of 34 PKK who
surrendered to Turkish authorities. Photo: AFP
Members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party
wave to their supporters.
After spending the night in a nearby city they
travelled to Diyarbakir Wednesday in a convoy of
dozens of vehicles.
In contrast to the festive atmosphere among Kurds,
their arrival sparked ire in Ankara.
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP)
charged that freeing the militants amounted to
amnesty for the PKK, which took up arms in 1984,
sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000
"This is a political, de
facto amnesty carried out through the judiciary,"
deputy Isa Gok said.
An association of families of soldiers killed by the
PKK lashed out at the government for arranging "a
state ceremony to welcome the terrorists" and
slammed Ankara's plans to improve Kurdish rights.
"The politicians who prepared the ground for this
initiative are committing treason... The nation will
hold them accountable for that," chairman Hamit Kose
The rebels were part of a 34-strong group, including
also Kurdish refugees who had lived in Iraq for
years, which Ocalan suggested be sent as "peace
envoys" to Turkey.
Another such group is expected to come from Europe
in the coming days.
Overriding the criticism, Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan vowed Wednesday the government would
press ahead with its plans to expand Kurdish rights,
but did not say what reforms it considered.
Speaking in the eastern city of Siirt, he welcomed
the arrival of the rebels and voiced hope that "much
more will come," Anatolia news agency reported.
However Erdogan slammed the welcome staged for the
rebels by Kurdish activists at the border, calling
it "an irresponsible provocation."
"We will press ahead with this process... and
hopefully, we will complete it despite those
incitements and provocations," he said.
Ankara categorically rejects dialogue with the PKK
and has vowed that military operations against the
group would continue.
But the PKK insisted Wednesday it should be part of
"We did what was up to us," rebel commander Murat
Karayilan told the Kurdish Firat news agency,
referring to the arrival of the "peace envoys."
"We will now see what the government will do," he
said. "First of all, (military) operations must stop
and then a dialogue must begin."
Since 1984 the PKK took up arms
for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of
Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan) which has claimed around
45,000 lives of Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK
guerrillas. A large Turkey's Kurdish
community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK
rebels. Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish
population as a distinct minority.
The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds'
identity in its constitution and of their language
as a native language along with Turkish in the
country's Kurdish areas,www.ekurd.net
the party also demanded an end to ethnic
discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution
against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.
The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by
Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the
blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which
overturned a decision
to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its
political wing on the European Union's terror list.
Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population
as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural
rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish
language and private Kurdish language courses with
the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians
say the measures fall short of their expectations.
Ankara is currently working on a package of fresh
reforms to expand the freedoms of the Kurdish
community, but has rejected calls to halt military
action against the PKK.
Kurds are not recognized as an official minority in
Turkey and are denied rights granted to other
minority groups. Under EU pressure, Turkey recently
granted Kurds limited rights for broadcasts and
education in the Kurdish language, but critics say
the measures do not go far enough.
The use of the term "Kurdistan" is vigorously
rejected due to its alleged political implications
by the Republic of Turkey, which does not recognize
the existence of a "Turkish Kurdistan" Southeast
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