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Inside Story

Turkey: Democracy repackaged?

As Turkey's prime minister unveils a package of political reforms, we discuss the impact on the Kurdish peace process.

Last Modified: 01 Oct 2013 10:52
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In a long-awaited move, Turkey's prime minister has announced a package of wide-ranging reforms. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reaching out to the country's minorities with law changes relating to politics, society and culture.

We are disappointed [because] the Kurdish side has not been involved in the preparation of this package.

Akif Wan, the Kurdistan National Congress

The percentage of the national vote needed by a political party to enter parliament will be reduced. This will increase the number of seats for smaller pro-Kurdish parties.

He also announced that some schools will be able to teach in languages other than Turkish, which has been a long-running demand by Kurdish politicians and activists.

Among the other changes,the current ban on wearing religious headscarves in government buildings will be abolished.

And an institute will be set up focusing on the language and culture of Turkey's Roma citizens.

Many people including myself have been criticising the Turkish prime minister that he is using the headscarf as a political tool in his political ambitions - from now on he cannot use this anymore...

Huseyin Bagci, the Middle East Technical University in Ankara

Erdogan explained why he is pushing for such changes: "We will announce and declare today a set of procedures. These procedures will never be the last and will be followed by other procedures in order to increase freedom and democracy in Turkey, and we need also to boost and support the steps taken by Atatürk in order for Turkey to be a modern and developed country."

The outreach to the Kurds has a lot to do with the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, and the tens of thousands killed in the decades-long conflict.

The party was formed in the late 1970s, and in 1984 it launched an armed attack against the Turkish government demanding an independent state within the country. Since then, 40,000 people have been killed.

In the 1990s, the PKK revised its demands calling instead for more autonomy for the Kurds. In 1999, its leader Abdullah Ocalan was jailed for treason - a huge blow for the PKK.

But earlier this year, after discussions with the government, he called a ceasefire and told PKK forces to withdraw from Turkey.

What are the expectations for the peace process? Will the refoms satisfy the Kurds and could it usher in a era where they are fully included in Turkey's political scene?

Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, discusses with guests: Akif Wan, a representative of the Kurdistan National Congress in Britain; Taha Ozhan, the director of SETA, the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research; and Huseyin Bagci, a political analyst and professor of international relations at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara.

"If every single group just asks for its own democratisation, unfortunately we will never arrive anywhere .... the best way is providing all kinds of democratic rights which somehow provides different .... segments and today we saw a package of that ..."

Taha Ozhan, the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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