Clashes in Turkey's Kurdish region,
threatening peace moves
June 19, 2012
Turkey's prominent outspoken Kurdish rights advocate
Leyla Zana, former Kurdish MP in Turkey Zana spent a
decade behind bars (between 1994 and 2004) in Turkey
for speaking Kurdish in the Turkish Parliament after
taking her parliamentary oath. She was the first
Kurdish woman to be elected to Turkey's parliament.
ANKARA, — Fighting between soldiers and
Kurdish rebels in the Kurdish region southeast
Turkey claimed 18 lives Tuesday, threatening to
torpedo a rare opening for negotiations to resolve a
decades-old separatist conflict.
Eight Turkish soldiers were
killed and 16 wounded when the rebels
attacked an army post near the border with Iraq's
Kurdistan region, local officials said in a
statement, adding that 10 rebels were killed and
operations were continuing.
The bloodshed comes amid signs of a softening of the
government’s hard line against the outlawed
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after a prominent
Kurdish lawmaker extended an olive branch to Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Leyla Zana, in an interview with the prominent daily
Hurriyet, praised Erdogan as the head of the
strongest government in Turkey’s history, saying
that with the political will, he had the power to
solve the Kurdish problem.
“The strongest one can halt all this if he wants.
Who’s that strongest one? It’s the current
government and its head Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” she
Zana, among the most outspoken advocates of Kurdish
rights who won the European Parliament’s Sakharov
human rights award in 1995, was imprisoned from 1994
to 2004 for alleged links with the separatist PKK,
which took up arms in 1984, sparking a conflict that
has claimed some 45,000 lives.
But her latest comments won plaudits from government
officials and Erdogan said he was ready to meet her.
The headline-grabbing interview however drew a harsh
response from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy
Party (BDP), which secured 29 seats in the
550-member Turkish parliament in the 2011 elections
The party’s co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas accused
Zana of being “naive” to pin her hopes on Erdogan.
Meanwhile the main opposition Republican People’s
Party (CHP) drew up a blueprint that would see a
parliamentary commission work together with an
outside panel of “wise men” to resolve the Kurdish
The plan has won backing from both the Erdogan
government and Kurdish MPs, seen by political
analysts as a “watershed” in Turkish politics.
In another sign of softening, Erdogan told
parliament last week that the Kurdish language would
be taught as an elective course in public schools
for the first time ever.
Since coming to power in 2002, Erdogan’s government
has carried out a number of reforms under pressure
from the European Union, easing restrictions on the
use of Kurdish,www.ekurd.net
including in broadcasts.
Political commentators however warn that a spike in
violence in the southeast, home to most of Turkey’s
large Kurdish minority, may force the government to
keep military option on the table.
The fresh violence prompted Turkey’s top commander
General Necdet Ozer and cabinet ministers to travel
to the region, while President Abdullah Gul said
Turkey must “solve the terrorism problem without
making any concessions on its state authority and
rule of law.”
The PKK has several times proposed peaceful solutions regarding Kurdish problem,
Turkey has always refused saying that it will not negotiate with “terrorists”.
Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been
fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the
constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a
Kurdish state in the south east of the country, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000
But now its aim is the creation an autonomous
and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who
constitute the greatest minority in Turkey,
numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's
Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.
PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees,
lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the
way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within
Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader
Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against
the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish
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
The PKK is considered as '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.
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