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Turkey split as Kurdish problem escalates

Published time: October 31, 2008 13:36
Edited time: October 31, 2008 13:36

Ankara is stepping up its battle with Kurdish militants following an attack on a Turkish border outpost that killed 17 soldiers earlier this month. Kurds make up one fifth of the Turkish population and opinions on whether the government is doing enough to

One in five Turks is Kurdish and their ambitions to live in independent Kurdistan continue to be thwarted.

Berfin Ana’s son was 17 years old when he went to live in the mountains of south-eastern Turkey. He’s a guerilla fighter with the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which was dubbed a terrorist organisation by Ankara eleven years ago.

“I haven’t spoken to my son for eleven years. It’s very, very difficult. Sometimes I see the guerilla members of the PKK on TV, and it’s as if I’m seeing my son and then I feel better. For our freedom I will send my other sons to the mountains too. I feel that all the people in the PKK are my children,” says Berfin.

One in five Turks is Kurdish. Ankara insists it is doing enough to improve the lives of the Kurdish population. Its latest project is to broadcast television programmes in Kurdish.

“There is a Kurdish question, but all the citizens in Turkey are equal and it’s simply untrue to say that the Kurds are treated as second-class citizens. We need a democratic solution to resolve the Kurdish question. The PKK is not the answer,” says Gursel Tekin from Republican Party.

Meanwhile, there are many Kurds who don’t support the PKK and its armed resistance. Most agree, however, that not enough is being done to improve their social and economic status.

“If the Turkish government were really trying to reform, it wouldn’t be necessary for our children to go to the mountains and fight. The Ankara government is always carrying out provocations against us. They continue to talk about Turkish nationalism and for many, many years it was forbidden to speak Kurdish,” says Cemal Cosgun from the Democratic Society Party.

But Ankara insists it is doing enough to improve the lives of the Kurdish population. Its latest project is to broadcast television programmes in Kurdish.

As the battle continues, fears grow that the fighting taking place in the mountains will move down on to the streets of cities.

But the Kurdish problem is not only an internal issue for Turkey. It puts the country in a difficult position on the international arena.

The EU does not want as a member a country that’s in constant conflict with its minority population, and the U.S. which is already involved in Iraq, doesn’t want to see the Turkish army fighting in the same territory as American forces.


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