Turkish PM woos Kurds ahead of vote
February 22, 2009
DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of
Turkey, — Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan on
Saturday launched a campaign to wrest control of the
country's biggest Kurdish-dominated city in local
elections next month, pledging better hospitals,
cheap housing and more investment.
Security was tight for Erdogan's visit to
Diyarbakir, the regional capital of the mainly
Kurdish southeast (Turkey Kurdistan),www.ekurd.netwhich
the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is
seeking to win from the Democratic Society Party
(DTP), the country's main Kurdish party, in the
March 29 elections.
The AKP hopes that such a win would provide a chance
to solve a decades-long armed conflict by separatist
Kurdish rebels that has wreaked havoc in the
Police were out in full force over fears of violent
demonstrations by supporters of the rebels, but
there were only a few incidents of small groups
burning tyres and shouting anti-AKP slogans far from
where Erdogan was addressing a crowd of some 20,000
A number of demonstrators were detained, a local
security source said, but gave no figure.
In a speech often interrupted by applause, Erdogan
pledged to bring better services to Diyarbakir and
underlined government plans to pump billions of
dollars into infrastructure projects in the region.
"A new era will begin on March 29.... On that day,
Diyarbakir will finally have the services it
deserves. Our only aim is to serve the people,"
Erdogan told the crowd gathered despite rain and
Erdogan has on several occasions publicly accused
the DTP of failing to do a proper job of running the
city and has also slammed the party for failing to
condemn the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels
fighting for self-rule in the southeast.
The DTP is currently facing a possible ban for links
with Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels.
urges a peaceful resolution to the conflict, denies
Erdogan also called on the Kurdish community to shun
support for the PKK and work with his government to
increase democracy in the region.
"Let us protect this republic together.... Everyone
should know that violence and terrorism are the
enemies of rights and liberties," he said.
Over 40,000 Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK
guerrillas have been killed since 1984 when the Turkey's
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) (Partiya Karkeren
Kurdistan) took up arms for self-rule in the mainly
Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan). A large Turkey's
Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK
Security was tight for Erdogan's visit to
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L)
inside the bus.
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, the party also demanded
an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and
constitution against Kurds, ranting them full
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.
The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by
Ankara and 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.
Copyright, respective author or news agency, AFP
** 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
Others estimate over 40 million Kurds live in Big
Kurdistan (Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia),
which covers an area as big as France, about half of
all Kurds which estimate to 20 million live in
Turkey is home to 25 million ethnic Kurds, a large
Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with
the Kurdish PKK for a Kurdish homeland in the
country's mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.
Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed
severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish language,
prohibiting the language in education and broadcast
media. The Kurdish alphabet is still not recognized
in Turkey, and use of the Kurdish letters X, W, Q
which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet has led
to judicial persecution in 2000 and 2003
The Kurdish flag flown officially in Iraqi Kurdistan
but unofficially flown by Kurds in Armenia. The flag
is banned in Iran, Syria, and Turkey where flying it
is a criminal offence"
North Kurdistan (
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