Deputy PM vows more rights for Turkey’s Kurds

Deputy PM vows more rights for Turkey’s Kurds

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Deputy PM vows more rights for Turkey’s Kurds

Deputy PM Bülent Arınç speaks in Parliament as members of the Cabinet, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, look on. AA photo

Turkey’s Kurdish community will be granted as many rights as Turks enjoy in the country, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has said, prompting angry calls from the opposition to clarify whether the pledges reflect a government policy.

“Anybody who lives in this land, be they Kurds, Arabs or Bosniaks, should be comfortable in revealing their identity. We will respect that identity. We will grant and acknowledge all the cultural and constitutional rights of that identity,” Arınç said Dec. 21 during the closing debate on the 2012 budget in Parliament.

“Those who say they are Kurds – we will give them at least as much education, language, culture and identity rights as we all have in this country,” he said.

Arınç said the state’s denial of Kurdish identity in the past resulted in the torture and extrajudicial killings of Kurds and fueled conflict.

However, he denounced politics based on either Kurdish or Turkish nationalism. “I believe that social peace in the country is damaged as long as such mistakes grow. We reject racism and negative
nationalism,” he said, in a veiled reference to the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Turkey’s main Kurdish party.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Devlet Bahçeli lashed out at Arınç, dubbing his speech “a provocation.” He urged the government to clarify whether it stood behind the pledges, recalling that Arınç took the floor at the budget debate on behalf of the government.

“The debate was a provocation. The ovations that erupted at the benches of the BDP and the AKP [Justice and Development Party] show that Turkey is knowingly being dragged in a certain direction,” Bahçeli said.

If the government shares Arınç’s views it must immediately stop all operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its alleged urban network, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and “fulfill all what the BDP and the PKK want,” Bahçeli said.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu backed Arınç’s call for respect to all ethnic identities, but said the deputy prime minister had failed to clarify what he meant by pledging full rights for Kurds. “He spoke of granting everything with respect to identity but did not elaborate. So I will not comment now,” he said.

BDP co-leader Gültan Kışanak said yesterday Arınç’s remarks should be backed by legal reforms.
“Individual rights should be backed by laws,” she said. “Twenty years have passed since then-president Süleyman Demirel said he recognized the Kurdish reality. Words do not mean anything anymore, words should be echoed in the legal system.”

Kışanak said the ruling AKP had a majority in Parliament, giving it the power to make legal amendments “if it is sincere.”