MINELRES: Fwd: Qatar's daily: Turkey looks to ease minority tensions

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Dec 7 20:00:02 2009

Original sender: Roma Virtual Network <romale@zahav.net.il>


Turkey looks to ease minority tensions

Istanbul, 30/11/2009 - Turkey is making moves to reconcile with the
country’s minority communities, but analysts are divided on whether this
new form of openness indicates a seismic shift in policy.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to heal the sectarian
wounds that run deep through Turkish society as he looks to take his
country closer to European Union membership — Brussels wants democratic
reforms and improvement of human rights before Ankara will be considered
for entry.

The Turkish premier has been looking to make concessions to the Kurdish,
Armenian, Roma and Alevi (Shia Muslim, practicing a modern tradition of
Islam) communities over the past year.

“Not long ago, this was all taboo,” said Mehmet Ali Birand, a political
commentator with Turkey’s newspaper of reference Hurriyet.

Turkey and Armenia have been at loggerheads for years over the killing
of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

Ankara still rejects Yerevan’s genocide label, but the two countries
inked a deal on October 10 to establish diplomatic ties and open their
shared border. Earlier that month, Erdogan addressed his Justice and
Development Party’s (AKP) annual conference in which he named 13 people
who have made telling contributions to Turkish society.

He cited left-wing singer Cem Karaca, communist poet Nazim Hikmet,
Armenian musician Tatyos Efendi and two Kurdish poets, Ahmet Kaya and
Ahmed Khani, as being among the most influential Turks.

The Turkish government has also been keen to win over the Kurds as it
looks to boost its bid for EU membership.

Erdogan recently announced a “democratic opening” for 12 million Kurds
living in Turkey, which led to the Kurdish language being used for the
first time. He also released a group of pro-independence Kurdistan
Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels at the end of October, who were arrested
after they re-entered Turkey from their base in Iraq.

Just three years ago, the Turkish army vowed that it would vigorously
defend the country from any threats made by the PKK.

The Islamist-rooted government hopes fresh gestures to the Kurds will
erode popular support for the rebel group, which took up arms against
Ankara in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.


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