Turkey announces proposals aimed at mending relations with Kurds
ISTANBUL — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a package of measures Monday that appeared intended to revive the stalled peace process with the country’s ethnic Kurds, who have fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
But Kurdish leaders largely dismissed the measures as inadequate, suggesting that efforts to settle the conflict, which has claimed nearly 40,000 lives since the early 1980s, could be in further jeopardy.
Erdogan said the government would relax longstanding restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language, and make changes to the electoral system that could make it easier for Kurdish parties to secure seats in Parliament.
But he did not announce some steps many Kurds had expected, including the release of jailed Kurdish activists.
Gulten Kisanak, a leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, said in a televised statement, “I can say that this package does not have the capacity to overcome the deadlock in the peace process.”
Kisanak’s party has close links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the main insurgent group, which the United States has labeled a terrorist organization. She took particular aim at the language measures, which will allow the Kurdish language to be taught in private schools but not public ones.
“It is an insult to the Kurdish people to say, ‘You can learn your mother tongue as a foreign language at a school only if you pay for it,’ ” she said.
Even so, Erdogan announced other steps to broaden the use of the Kurdish language, offering legal structure for villages to be renamed in Kurdish and lifting a ban on the use of the letters Q, W and X, which are widely used in Kurdish spelling but not in Turkish.
The proposals from Erdogan, some of which are subject to approval in Parliament, would also further relax the country’s longstanding limitations on women wearing Islamic headscarves in public places.
Some Turks had hoped that Erdogan would announce that the Halki Seminary, a Greek Orthodox religious school on an island in the Sea of Marmara that was closed by the Turkish government in 1971, would be allowed to reopen. U.S. leaders including President Barack Obama have pressed Turkey for years to do that, saying it was necessary for Turkey, a Muslim-majority country, to advance the rights of Christians there. But Erdogan did not mention the matter Monday.