August 31, 2009
ANKARA, Turkey, — Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Sunday to press ahead
with a plan to extend the rights of the Kurds
despite what he claimed were attempts by Kurdish
rebels to derail the process.
As the military flexed its muscle with parades and
flypasts Sunday to mark Victory Day, four Turkish
soldiers were killed in a grenade attack by Turkey's
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels in southeast
Turkey, near the Iraqi Kurdistan region border.
"I see this attack as attempt to axe, to prevent the
democratic opening process," Erdogan told reporters
here hours after the incident near Semdinli, Hakkari
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
"The democratic project is underway...It is not
possible for us to stop in spite of those who are
trying to prevent us," he added, underlining that
the struggle against the PKK would be pursued with
Last month, Erdogan's government announced that it
was working on a package of "courageous" reforms to
boost the rights and freedoms of the Kurdish
community and pave the way for the end of the
25-year bloody insurgency led by the PKK.
Ankara has remained tight-lipped on the content of
the plan, but has stressed that democratic reforms
lay at the heart of ending the violence.
While opposition parties argue that broader rights
for the country's Kurds would pave the way for
army chief Ilker Basbug
warned earlier this week that the planned
must not endanger unity.
The army "respects cultural diversity", but opposes
the politicisation of the issue, Basbug said
Tuesday, underlining a constitutional article that
describes Turkey as being an indivisible whole with
Turkish as its language.
In a display to underline the army's strength and
the country's unity, the military played up Sunday's
ceremonies marking a military victory against
invading Greek troops in 1922, under the slogan "A
Strong Army, A Strong Turkey".
In the capital Ankara, some 8,000 soldiers -- nearly
double the number in previous events -- marched
before civilian and military leaders as nearly 50
aircraft flew past and dozens of tanks rolled by.
The general was greeted with patriotic slogans when
he joined flag-waving spectators after the parade as
the crowd broke into applause and chanted, "Turkey
is Turkish and will stay Turkish! The motherland is
"Nobody can break Turkey up," Basbug told a young
girl in tears who said she was opposed to the
government's plan, the Anatolia news agency
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.
Last month, the rebels announced that they were
extending a ceasefire in their campaign until
September 1 in anticipation of a peace plan to be
announced by their jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan.
There are still occasional clashes in the southeast
although their frequency has decreased considerably.
In a bid to boost its bid to join the European
Union, Turkey has in recent years granted the Kurds
a series of cultural liberties, including the launch
of a public Kurdish-language television.
Kurdish activists however say the reforms are
inadequate to encourage PKK militants to lay down
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 new 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.
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 (