Turkey hails Kurdish group 'surrender'
DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of
Turkey, — Turkey on Tuesday hailed the "surrender"
of Kurdish rebels in support of plans to end the
25-year conflict, although rebel commanders insisted
they would fight on to achieve their rights.
The war of words came after a Kurdish "peace group"
of militants and supporters
Habur border gate from Iraqi Kurdistan region on
Monday carrying a list of proposals to end the
violence and Turkish authorities questioned them.
Turkish interior Minister Besir Atalay
Speaking in Ankara, Interior Minister Besir Atalay
welcomed the group's arrival as a boost to Ankara's
two-pronged plan to expand Kurdish freedoms and keep
the outlawed Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)
under military pressure.
"We expect these
(surrenders) to continue. Let me underline that the
(PKK) fighters in the mountains see that their way
is a dead-end," Atalay was quoted by the Anatolia
news agency as saying.
Atalay argued that Iraqi Kurdistan region, where the
PKK has rear bases, was ceasing to be a safe haven
for the militants through Turkish military
operations and cooperation with Iraqi authorities,www.ekurd.netadding:
"We expect 100 or 150 people to return in small
But the PKK countered that its militants would not
lay down arms and turn themselves in unless Turkey
officially recognised its Kurdish community and
granted them political rights.
A senior rebel commander said the group that crossed
from Iraq were not rebels who had abandoned the
struggle, but envoys sent to convey Kurdish demands
for a solution.
"This group should not be arrested and they should
be respected... If the Turkish state does not arrest
them and does not prevent them from expressing
themselves, they would help the solution of the
problem," Cemil Bayik was quoted by the pro-Kurdish
Firat news agency as saying.
Bayik also underlined that PKK militants would not
give up their armed struggle as long as Ankara
continues military operations against them and fails
to take concrete steps to give Kurds political
"How could they (the rebels) come down from the
mountains if the mentality does not change in
Turkey, if the Kurdish will and identity is not
accepted and if Kurds are unable to organise and
express themselves?" he asked.
Since August, the government has been trying to
build public support for a raft of reforms to expand
Kurds' freedoms, but it has also vowed to pursue
military action against the PKK, which it considers
a terrorist organisation.
Ankara has called on the rebels to turn themselves
in and categorically rejected proposals to negotiate
with the PKK for a solution.
thousands of Kurds shouting
slogans in favour of peace had
greeted the PKK's 34-strong "peace group" who were
immediately detained for questioning upon arrival.
Twenty-nine of them were initially released, while
prosecutors asked a court to charge five with
unspecified crimes committed in the past, judicial
The judge, however, released the remaining five as
well on account of the fact that they had returned
to Turkey of their own free will, the sources added.
The "peace group" included eight PKK rebels and 26
Turkish Kurds from the UN-run Makhmour refugee camp
in northern Iraq which houses some 12,000 people who
fled Turkey in the 1990s at the peak of the
The rebels had sent two groups of militants in 1999
on a similar peace initiative, but they were
arrested and then jailed for belonging to the PKK.
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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