Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Turkey’s Democratic Opening to the Kurds

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 4th October, 2009

Recep Tayyip ErdoğanYesterday, here in Ankara, at the Congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Prıme Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan waxed quite poetic about his road map to solve the country’s troublesome Kurdish question, without actually revealing what is in it. He said he was taking a risk and to an extent indeed he is; there are plenty of Kemalist nationalists who still argue that Turkey is one people with one language, blithely ignoring the fact that up to a quarter of the population are ethnic Kurds, not to mention the Armenians, Assyrians, Arabs and various others. Multiculturalism may now be the accepted wisdom in most of Europe, but for most Turks it is seen as an alien ideology. Any change is going to need quite an educational element. Many friends of Turkey now hope the country is indeed on the road to not only a recognition of pluralism but also genuine equality of citizenship for all the country’s inhabitants.

Ahmet TürkToday, also in Ankara, the Democratic Society Party (DTP) held an extraordinary Congress, largely to elect new people to its governing Council as 55 of the 80 present Council members are in prison, along with several hundred other party activists. Quite how the government reconciles its ‘democratic opening’ to the Kurds with ongoıng harassment of the DTP ıs beyond me. Steps are afoot in the courts to try to ban the DTP completely (as happened to several predecessor Kurdish parties). Despite this, speakers at the DTP Congress today, including co-President Ahmet Türk, spoke of their desire to engage with the new political process in Turkey, arguing the case for genuine multiculturalism, of which the Kurds would not be the only beneficiaries.

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