News / Middle East

Turkey's Kurds Want More Freedoms, Autonomy

Turkey's Kurds Want More Freedoms, Autonomyi
|| 0:00:00
X
Scott Bobb
November 20, 2012 4:15 PM
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. VOA's Scott Bobb says most Kurds, however, say they continue to suffer discrimination and alienation.

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

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid