Turkey rules out education in Kurdish at schools

08:36, September 25, 2010      

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled out the possibility of allowing education in the Kurdish language at schools, rejecting the call of pro- Kurdish politicians.

"Don't expect us to allow education in (Kurds') native language. Turkey's official language is Turkish," Erdogan told a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) Friday.

Meanwhile, the prime minister reminded that special language courses for learning Kurdish are permitted.

Erdogan's speech came at a time when Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) called on its supporters to boycott schools for one week as part of a campaign demanding education in Kurdish.

Following the adoption of a government-backed constitutional amendment package in a referendum earlier this month, BDP leader Selahattin Demirtas said Thursday a further constitutional overhaul should accommodate Kurdish demands for autonomy and broader linguistic rights.

Demirtas made the remarks after meeting Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek and Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin for talks on Thursday.

"The atmosphere is positive and this meeting has created grounds for intensified efforts for a political solution to the Kurdish conflict," Demirtas said.

The AKP has said it will start to prepare for an entirely new constitution after the amendments were approved and is open to more constitutional changes related to the Kurdish issue.

However, the upcoming general elections in summer in 2011 puts the AKP in a delicate situation, since the government faces harsh criticisms from nationalists for expanding Kurdish rights.

As Turkey's biggest ethnic minority group, Kurds have voiced demands for autonomy and sought to expand their cultural and political rights.

Pro-Kurdish politicians in Turkey have been seeking constitutional changes in order to give school children access to classes in Kurdish, part of their political movement aimed at ending decades of bloody conflicts.

In the past two decades, some 40,000 people have been killed in conflicts involving the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which took up arms in 1984 in order to create an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey and is listed as a terror group by Turkish government.

The PKK announced on Monday it was extending a previous unilateral ceasefire, which lasted from Aug. 13 to Sept. 20 for the sake of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, until next week, when it would make public its next step.

Since the ceasefire was declared, the AKP has held talks with BDP leaders in a move to end PKK attacks and achieve permanent peace.

However, opposition and nationalists criticized the AKP of also engaging in talks with the PKK and negotiating with terrorists.

The PKK's ceasefire decision came ahead of the key referendum on Sept. 12 over the constitutional reform plan, which has been criticized by opposition parties as an attempt by the AKP to control the judiciary and other state institutions.

The BDP complained the constitutional amendment package failed to take into consideration their demands about Kurdish rights and boycotted the referendum, leading to relatively low turnout rate in the Kurdish-populated southeast in the referendum.

The timing of the PKK ceasefire has led to allegations that the Turkish government convinced the jailed PKK leader Ocalan to lay down arms to create a favorable environment for the referendum and in return promised to improve the prison conditions for Ocalan and make concessions over the Kurdish issue.

The Turkish government has strongly denied such claims, saying the state's stance was not to negotiate with terrorists.

Erdogan said Friday the government had always been open for a dialogue with all political parties to end terrorism.

"However, we don't have any intention to meet with the terrorist organization," he said.

Source: Xinhua


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