Critical week for Turkey as Kurdish initiative comes to Parliament

Critical week for Turkey as Kurdish initiative comes to Parliament

November 09, 2009, Monday/ 16:59:00/ ERCAN YAVUZ
A critical week has begun for Turkey as the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, which over the summer introduced a democratization initiative to resolve Turkey's long-standing Kurdish problem, will bring the initiative to Parliament's floor on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Beşir Atalay, responsible for the coordination of the initiative, will inform Parliament about the initiative and have preliminary talks with opposition parties regarding the issue, Today's Zaman has learned.

On Tuesday Atalay is expected to brief Parliament about the general framework of the Kurdish initiative, its goals and limits. He will also inform Parliament about his preparations since the introduction of the package in the summer. Keeping issues which require a constitutional amendment outside the scope of the package, the government will settle for enacting laws and regulations that will contribute to the solution of the problem.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to speak to Parliament on Nov. 12 regarding the package.

In order to make a constitutional amendment, the government needs the support of the opposition parties in addition to the support of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP). However, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) do not support the solution process, arguing that the project carries the ultimate goal of “dividing” Turkey.

What does the initiative include?

The main goal of the Kurdish initiative is to make possible the return to Turkey of all Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists, but mainly those in northern Iraq. The government does not consider pushing for a general amnesty for PKK members on the grounds that such an amnesty, to also include amnesty for PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, will block the initiative process. So, senior PKK members will not benefit from the initiative process.

Just as has been the case with the return of 34 PKK members to Turkey last month, PKK members who have not engaged in acts of violence will not be arrested when they turn themselves in. Such PKK members will be placed in a three-month-long rehabilitation program. Those who show remorse for joining the PKK will be able to benefit from Article 221 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), popularly known as the Active Repentance Law. Under UN supervision, the Mahmur Camp, located in northern Iraq and where most PKK members are located, will be evacuated. Turkish citizens who settled in this camp long ago will be provided the necessary means to return to Turkey. Syrian and Iranian PKK members in this camp will also be provided the means to return to their countries.

The Kurdish language will be offered as an elective course in secondary schools and high schools. Kurdish classes will be offered to those who want to learn Kurdish at public education centers. Kurdish place names will be restored. Broadcasts in Kurdish, which began when the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) established its TRT 6 channel, will be expanded to private channels. The state will support Kurdish broadcasts.

An institute of Kurdology will be opened at Mardin’s Artuklu University. With an amendment to the Election Law, election campaign materials in Kurdish will be made for free. The state will purchase Kurdish books and distribute them to libraries. In prisons, prisoners will be allowed to speak in their mother tongue with their relatives. Religious leaders and police officers who can speak Kurdish will be employed in the region. Mosque sermons in the Southeast will be delivered in Kurdish in some mosques. Forestland destroyed in the Southeast due to terrorism will be rehabilitated. Following a review of the village guard system, state-sponsored village guards will be employed in these forests.

Atalay, however, denies allegations that the initiative contains the inclusion of the letters Q, W and X in the Turkish alphabet, letters used in Kurdish but not in Turkish.


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