Turks in uproar at pro-Kurd report

A respected Ankara University professor has provoked a political storm in Turkey by recommending that the government should enhance the civil rights of the country's Kurdish minority. Dogu Ergil headed a team of academics who published a report this month advocating dialogue to overcome Turkey's Kurdish crisis.

The report suggests that if the government addressed the economic and social grievances of Turkey's 12 million Kurds, who make up about 20 per cent of the population, there would be less popular support for the armed rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). More than 17,500 people have been killed since 1984 in a war in south-eastern Turkey between the armed forces and the PKK, which is seeking autonomy or full independence.

The report also airs the idea of elevating Kurdish to the status of a second official language, after Turkish, and even turning Turkey into a federal state to provide proper guarantees for Kurdish rights. It says a solution to the Kurdish problem lies in "dialogue with the Kurds, while excluding the PKK".

Such proposals would be warmly endorsed by many Western critics of Turkey's Kurdish policies, particularly in the European Parliament, which will decide in October whether to ratify a customs union agreed last March between Turkey and the European Union.

The report was commissioned by one of Turkey's most powerful business groups, the Union of Chambers of Commerce and Bourses, whose chairman, Yalim Erez, is close to the centre-right Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller. However, Mrs Ciller's office has issued a statement denying that she influenced the conclusions.

The report provided a rare insight into Kurdish public opinion by detailing the results of a survey of 1,200 Kurds. It showed that only 13 per cent of Kurds wanted an independent state, but 89 per cent supported turning Turkey into a federation and 63 per cent wanted Kurdish to have equal status with Turkish.

Ankara's state-security court is investigating whether there are grounds to prosecute the authors under the notorious Article 8 of the anti-terrorism law. This bans propaganda against the unity of the state.

While liberal intellectuals and newspaper commentators welcomed the report, the reaction of politicians in and out of government was overwhelmingly negative. The head of the opposition Motherland Party, Mesut Yilmaz, called it "something concocted by the CIA".

Sevket Kazan, a senior official in the Islamist Welfare Party, which controls municipal governments in Ankara and Istanbul, described the report as a "minefield" that could destroy Turkey's unity. This view was shared by the Interior Minister, Nahit Mentese.

From a different point on the political spectrum, the report was dismissed by the PKK as a ruse intended to drum up support in the European Parliament for approving the customs union. Members of the PKK's political wing said the armed forces were the only real power in Turkey and any solution would need the military's endorsement.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Western allies are reluctant to push the authorities too hard on their treatment of the Kurds for fear of generating a backlash from nationalists, Islamists or the armed forces.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum