August 13, 2005


Leader Regrets Turkish Stance Toward Kurds: Erdogan acknowledges the repressed minority's grievances in a speech. The shift may please the EU but anger the army and nationalists. (Amberin Zaman, August 13, 2005, LA Times)

The prime minister acknowledged Friday that the Turkish government had mishandled its relations with the nation's minority Kurds, saying their long-running grievances needed to be addressed through greater democracy, not repression.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's admission, believed to be the first by a Turkish leader, came during a speech in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the troubled Kurdish southeast and a hotbed of Kurdish nationalism.

The crowds applauded wildly as Erdogan termed the Kurdish issue "my problem, our collective problem."

"Mistakes have been made," he said. And to ignore past mistakes, the prime minister declared, was not "fitting behavior for great nations such as Turkey."

Erdogan's speech won strong praise from the Kurdish community.

"It constitutes the foundation for turning a new page in relations" between Kurds and the government, said Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir.

The significance of Erdogan's words cannot be overestimated, said Sezgin Tanrikulu, chairman of Diyarbakir's influential bar association. "It's the first time any Turkish leader is admitting to wrongdoing on the part of the state."

However, Tanrikulu noted in a telephone interview, "he will need to match his words with deeds."

Greater Kurdistan is just a matter of time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 13, 2005 9:15 AM
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