The Kurdish issue is Turkey's most difficult and painful problem, one that presents a vast moral dilemma for the country. The issue feeds Turkey's continuing inflation and is the major source of human rights violations and the biggest irritant in Turkey's relations with the European Union. Its most pronounced manifestation, the war in the southeast against Kurdish insurgents, has left countless thousands dead and many hundreds of thousands displaced. Despite the massive Turkish military effort and some significant gains in coping with the Kurdish Workers' party (PKK) insurgency, the fighting continues after forty years, although it has not reached the major cities of Turkey and many have long predicted. (Gunter 2004). The Kurdish conflict is in essence an ethnic problem, and not one of simple terrorism or economics, although both terrorism and economic hardship are indeed part of the current crisis.
[...] Bearers of a long tradition and culture of their own for roughly two thousand years, the Kurds today are rapidly reformulating their own ethnic identity as a community and seeking its expression in legal terms in the cultural and political realm of Turkish life. In generic terms then, the Kurdish problem represents the striving of an ethnic minority to achieve legal recognition as such, and to establish legal rights deriving there from. (Gunter 2004). How do aspiring democratic societies extend democratic discourse into the sensitive realm of security issues and domestic unrest? [...]
[...] From the other side of the ideological spectrum, Ismail Besikci, the Turkish sociologist who had spent more than a decade in prison for maintaining in his scholarly work that the Kurds constitute a separate, ethnic group, responded that these initiatives did not do much for actually relieving the Kurds of the oppression that that had become accustomed to. The problem was the idea of cultural rights, as the Kurds had not been giving to proper cultural considerations that were needed to actually make inroads in the Kurdish problem. [...]
[...] In repealing Law 2932, under which the military government had banned the usage of the Kurdish language in 1983, Ozal was legalizing the use of Kurdish in a rather limited way. Using the language in official agencies, publishing or teaching would still be a crime. Ozal said that the laws might further change, but that it would need time for that to happen. (Kirisci et al. 1997). Within the following year, however, Ozal was suggesting that the GAP Television Network carry 60-90 minute programs in Kurdish and that the appropriate schools even teach in that language: “What would happen if we do it? [...]
[...] Kurdish assimilation into the over-all Turkish population and deportation of Kurds to the Turkish areas in the west had given the false impression that the Kurdish problem in Turkey was being solved. As a result, a few of the harsher restrictions against the Kurdish language and culture were relaxed in the 1950s and early 1960s, only to be reinstated when the government realized what was really occurring. The poor socioeconomic condition in which Turkish Kurdistan remained had helped lead to a Kurdish population explosion, while the demographic curve of the Turks themselves, reflecting their relative socioeconomic prosperity, lagged behind. [...]
[...] Clearly, the issue was being reassessed from both sides, with an interest in coming together, at least in ideology. (Barkey et al. 1998). Why did the Turkish authorities begin to reassess their position? Along with the democratic factors and the PKK insurgency itself, the 1991 Gulf War and the ensuing mass exodus of the Iraqi Kurds from the wrath of Saddam acted as catalysts to their thinking and the subsequent initiatives of the new Prime Minister, Suleyman Demirel. Suddenly the spotlight of world attention was turned to events on the Turkish border, and Turkey quickly became an important allied associate. [...]
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