August 30, 2009
ANKARA, Turkey, — Turkey's military flexed
its muscle with parades and flypasts in major cities
Sunday to mark Victory Day against a backdrop of
intense debate on a government plan to peacefully
end a 25-year bloody Kurdish insurgency.
The celebrations, held under the slogan "A Strong
Army, A Strong Turkey", come nearly two months after
army chief Ilker Basbug complained of a media
campaign to discredit and weaken the military.
The biggest parade was organized in capital Ankara,
where some 8,000 troops -- nearly double the number
in previous celebrations -- marched in Ankara before
President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, Basbug and senior generals.
Nearly 50 aircraft, among them F-4 and F-16 fighter
jets, flew past the arena and dozens of tanks and
armoured vehicles rolled by in a display designed to
underline the army's strength and the country's
unity, as hundreds of flag-waving people applauded.
Similar ceremonies, marking Turkey's victory against
invading Greek troops in 1922, were held in several
other cities, among them Turkey's biggest city
Istanbul and Diyarbakir, the regional capital of the
mainly Kurdish southeast.
In recent weeks, the government has been trying to
win public support for planned reforms to expand the
freedoms of the Kurdish community and end a bloody
conflict with Kurdish rebels.
Ankara has remained tight-lipped on the content of
the plan, but has stressed that democratic reforms
lay at the heart of ending the fighting with the
Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The Kurdish conflict "cannot be resolved only
through military means", Erdogan said in a televised
monthly address to the nation on Thursday. "It is a
social, economic and cultural issue... Beyond all,
it is an issue of democracy."
On Tuesday, Basbug warned that the planned reforms
must not endanger the country's unity and ruled out
contact with the PKK.
He also underlined a constitutional article that
decribes Turkey as being an indivisible whole with
Turkish as its language.
The army "respects cultural diversity", but opposes
the politicisation of the issue, Basbug said in his
Victory Day message.
Opposition parties remain hostile to the plan,
arguing that broader rights for the country's Kurds
will pave the way for Turkey's disintegration.
A senior ruling party lawmaker said last week the
Kurdish language could be introduced as an elective
course in Turkish schools as part of the plan.
Media reports say the government may also consider
restoring the Kurdish names of villages that have
been renamed, lifting a ban on using Kurdish in
political posters and modifying the definition of
Turkish nationality in the constitution.
Turkey has in recent years granted the Kurds a
series of cultural liberties, including the launch
of a public Kurdish-language television channel, but
it has failed to encourage the rebels to lay down
Sunday's massive parade comes after Basbug slammed
press reports of an alleged plot by an army colonel
to topple the government and denounced what he
called a "growing and organised" smear campaign
against the military.
His outburst coincided with a government-sponsored
law that allowed officers to be tried in civilian
The Turkish army, which has unseated four
governments since 1960, has seen its powers limited
as part of reforms in recent years to boost Turkey's
bid to join the European Union.
Although it has often clashed with Erdogan's
Islamist-rooted government which came to power in
2002, the military has kept a relatively low profile
in the political arena in the past two years.
Over 44,000 Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK
guerrillas have been killed since 1984 when the
Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) 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
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.
author or news agency,
AFP | Agencies
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 25 million live in
Turkey. 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 (