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 Kurd PKK rebels receive hero's welcome, Turkish govt under fire

 Source : AFP | Agencies
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Kurd PKK rebels receive hero's welcome, Turkish govt under fire  22.10.2009  

October 22, 2009

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 region.

Brandishing flags of the outlawed Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and posters of its jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan,
www.ekurd.netthe crowd chanted "Long live peace" as songs praising the 25-year insurgency against Ankara blared from loudspeakers.

"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 lives.

"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 said.

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 any settlement.

"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, 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 Turkey. 

Copyright, respective author or news agency, AFP | Agencies      


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