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

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora