Kurds in Turkey Want Official Status for Their Language

ISTANBUL (AFP)–Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party called on the government Monday to give Kurdish the status of an official language and scrap legal restrictions barring Kurdish representation in parliament.

The Democratic Society Party (DTP) also criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for failing to follow up on promises for a democratic solution of the Kurdish conflict and urged both the army and separatist Kurdish rebels to halt armed action in the conflict-torn southeast.

"Violence should not be seen as an option in politics," the statement said–stressing that the Kurdish minority did not have ambitions to break away.

"All restrictions on the Kurdish language should be lifted and it should be given the status of an official language along with Turkish in regions where Kurds live.

"The political parties’ law–primarily the election threshold–should be revised so that everybody can use their right to political representation," it said.

Even though Kurds have been able to win parliamentary seats on mainstream party tickets–pro-Kurdish parties have failed to overcome the 10% national threshold required to enter parliament.

The DTP also reiterated a long-standing appeal for general amnesty for rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)–which has been waging a bloody separatist campaign in the southeast since 1984.

Unrest in the region has increased since June 2004–when the PKK–which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey as well as the European Union and the US–called off a five-year unilateral ceasefire.

Keen to boost its democratic credentials and join the EU–Turkey has in recent years lifted the emergency rule in the southeast and allowed the Kurdish language to be taught through private courses and used in public broadcasts.

It is also compensating villagers who have been displaced and suffered material losses during the conflict.

But Kurdish activists say the reforms are inadequate.

The conflict has claimed some 37,000 lives–ravaged the already meager economy of the southeast–and forced millions of already poor peasants to migrate en mass to urban slums.

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