News / Europe

Turkey Unveils Democratization Plan

A televised news conference of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is showed on televisions at an electronics shop in Istanbul, Sep. 30, 2013.
A televised news conference of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is showed on televisions at an electronics shop in Istanbul, Sep. 30, 2013.
Dorian Jones
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a package of reforms aimed at strengthening democracy and keeping on track a faltering peace process with the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK. The announcement follows calls on the part of the European Union, which Ankara is seeking to join, for Turkey to introduce urgent reforms.

Erdogan described the unveiling of his democratization plan as an historic moment.  While addressing a wide range of issues, the reform package focuses heavily on Kurdish minority rights.

The plan eases decades-long restrictions on the Kurdish language, lifting a ban on the use of Kurdish alphabetical letters and permitting private schools to teach in Kurdish along with Turkish. The prime minister also said he will consider changing the current requirement that political parties win at least 10 percent of the vote to gain parliamentary representation - a key demand of pro-Kurdish rights campaigners.
 
Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist and columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf, says such reforms are important. But he warns the overall package may not help to forward the peace process with the PKK.

"There are symbolic positive moves in it, but they don’t really address the resolution of the Kurdish conflict," he said.

Last month, the PKK blamed Ankara’s failure to introduce reforms for its decision to end its withdrawal of fighters from Turkey, which was part of a government-initiated peace process. The PKK has been fighting the Turkish state for more than three decades to win greater minority rights, including local autonomy and mother tongue education in state schools.

Ertugrul Kurkcu, a parliamentary deputy with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, says that the shortcomings in the reform package will not necessarily mean a return to arms, but that they will have consequences.

"Looking at the package, you can see that none of the political demands are met. But there is no reason to resume the armed struggle," said Kurkcu. "Therefore, the negotiation process will continue, but with little encouragement by this new package. The Kurdish political movement, they are  now all going to launch a mass struggle for immediate recognition of their demands."
 
The BDP has also strongly criticized the democracy package for failing to amend the country’s anti-terrorism laws, which it claims are responsible for the jailing of thousands of its members. Emma Sinclair Webb, Turkish researcher for the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, welcomes some reforms, but says failure to amend the anti-terror laws is a serious omission.

"We don’t see attempts address some of the most crucial flaws in the criminal justice, where people spend a long time in prison for terrorism offenses when they have only committed activities that, you know, amount to free speech and political association," she said. "Over the last four years, 40,000 people have been put on trial for being members of terrorist organizations, and at least half of them have got convictions."

The European Union, which Ankara is seeking to join, has also called for urgent reform of the anti-terrorism laws, especially as many of those who have been convicted are journalists. According to international human rights groups, Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists. Next month, Brussels is due to publish Turkey’s annual EU membership progress report, the contents of which will be key to it deciding whether to restart the membership process, which has been frozen for three years. Observers say press freedom remains a particular concern for Brussels.

At the same time, Erdogan did make some concessions to Turkey’s small Christianity minority - another area of concern for Brussels. According to political scientist Aktar, with presidential elections due to take place in 2014, the package is finely balanced against electoral considerations
 
"Everything which is included was very cautiously weighted against any negative apprehension of nationalist voters, because the prime minister thinks the only solid constituency from which he can gain votes is the nationalist voters," he said.

Analysts say the fact that the democratization plan includes lifting a ban on women wearing religious head scarves in public buildings is aimed at addressing an important demand of the prime minister’s grassroots religious supporters. The success or failure of Erdogan's political balancing act is expected to be key in both the ongoing peace efforts with the PKK and Ankara’s EU hopes.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: SAS from: Atlanta
October 01, 2013 2:00 PM
Thank you, Mr Erdogan.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid