News / Middle East

Turkey's Kurds Want More Freedoms, Autonomy

Scott Bobb
Tensions in heavily Kurdish areas of Turkey are highlighting how the nation's decades-old "Kurdish question" remains unresolved.
 
Turkey's prime minister says the government has given Turkey's Kurds unprecedented freedoms. 
 
But most Kurds say they continue to suffer discrimination and alienation.  And there are increasing skirmishes between Turkish forces and Kurdish insurgents, causing an outcry among Turks and harsh crackdown rhetoric from Ankara. 
 
At the Tigris-Euphrates Cultural Center in Diyarbakir, inside the walls of the Old City, Kurds are trying to revive traditional Kurdish culture, which has been under threat since the creation of the Turkish Republic nearly 90 years ago.
 
Center coordinator Farqin, who uses only one name, said the Turkish government wants only one culture, one language, for the country. 
 
"The Turkish government gives us a hard time," he said. "It doesn't want us to do this kind of work."  
 
Farqin said the authorities have broken into the cultural center several times and taken its computers and CDs. 
 
"And they arrest our friends," he said.
 
Any display of Kurdish culture once was illegal in Turkey.
 
Restrictions eased
 
Kurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and IraqKurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq
x
Kurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq
Kurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq
The restrictions have been eased in the past decade - part of what the government says is an unprecedented tide of liberties and education given to Kurds. 
 
But Kurds say arrests and court cases continue and hundreds of artists have been jailed for expressions that are perceived as anti-Turkish.
 
Veysel Tanrikulu, 25, a recent university graduate, is facing a 10-month prison sentence for singing traditional Kurdish songs at a festival. 
 
Tanrikulu said young people are divided.
 
One group has lost hope, he said, as Turkish officials vow there is no way the Kurdish language will be taught as an official language. Tanrikulu said the other group is more activist and believes something must be done.
 
Violent insurgency
 
Kurdish Percentage of Population
 
Iran 10%
Iraq 15 to 20 %
Syria As much as 9.7%
Turkey 18%
 
Source: CIA World Factbook
 
Some young Kurds, Tanrikulu said, have become so frustrated that they go to the mountains and join the insurgent PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state for 28 years.
 
The PKK - the Kurdistan Workers Party - is viewed as a terrorist group by many Western governments. 
 
There has been an upsurge of clashes between the PKK and Turkish government forces after a decade of relative calm. The PKK says the authorities are trying to sabotage peace negotiations.
 
The government says the Kurdish guerrillas are being encouraged by the Syrian government and its ally, Iran, because of Turkey's support for Syrian rebels fighting the Damascus government.
 
Ahmed Gezen, deputy chairman of the Diyarbakir branch of the Peace and Democracy Party, said Kurds are only seeking a democratic Kurdish-run government in Kurdish parts of Turkey. 
 
Some consider the party to be the political wing of the PKK although it denies this. 
 
"Why do so many guerillas and soldiers have to die for this?" Gezen asked of the struggle for Kurdish freedoms.
 
Bayan Bozyel, who leads the smaller Rights and Freedom Party, advocates Kurdish rights through non-violent means. He said the Turkish government has met some of the Kurds' demands.
 
Bozyel said the Turkish government has opened a Kurdish language television station and is allowing optional courses in Kurdish in some schools. But Bozyel added that it is not enough to solve the Kurdish problem.
 
Government support
 
Istanbul University Professor Emre Gonen said that many Kurds in the last election voted for the ruling Peace and Justice Party, or AKP, of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
 
Erdogan has said that Kurds are enjoying unprecedented freedoms and political influence. There are some 50 Kurdish members of the governing coalition in parliament.
 
“There is an immense majority of the Kurdish population that is nicely integrated in Turkey - not that we have been nice to the Kurds - but there is so much inter-penetration between Kurds and Turks - mixed marriages are almost a tradition - that it is not possible to separate them,” analyst Gonen said.
 
Istanbul University Professor Ayhan Kaya said that many Turks are beginning to acknowledge the injustices of the past against the Kurdish population.
 
“There is this democratic process within the framework of the Kurdish question," Kaya said. "But what is really problematic recently is the fact that the socio-economic disparities between the east and west, the Kurdish region and other parts of Turkey, is still there.”

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: musawi melake from: -
November 20, 2012 6:45 PM
Turkey is in reality is a barbaric regime that denies the basic rights of the Kurdish nation, but the regime is being protected by the very actor, the US. If there's to be just and reliable solution, there should be a fundamental changes, i.e. the Kurds need to be recognized as fledged Nation that has inalienable right to secession.
In Response

by: dragon from: balkan
December 04, 2012 12:25 PM
Freedom to Kurdistan !!!
In Response

by: vatansever from: turkey
November 25, 2012 3:02 PM
how happy one says: I am Turk

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs