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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-14

The Turkish government laid out plans to expand the rights of its Kurdish population during a heated parliamentary session on Friday. However analysts don't believe the measures will appease Kurdish activists and rebels.

AFP - Turkey's plan to expand language rights for Kurds and prevent discrimination is unlikely to persuade armed rebels to lay down arms and risks heightening nationalist anger at the government for caving into "terrorists", analysts said Saturday.

In a tumultous parliamentary session on Friday, Interior Minister Besir Atalay gave the first concrete details of a government project to grant country's estimated 12 million Kurds wider rights with the hope of ending a 25-year separatist campaign by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Among the measures were allowing Kurdish-majority towns to use their old Kurdish names, lifting restrictions on Kurdish to be used in political campaigning and allowing convicts to speak in Kurdish with visiting relatives.

The government will also create independent commissions to prevent discrimination and torture, notably in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast, Atalay said.

The announcement proved to be an "anti-climax" to the high expectations the government has been building for months with vague talk of "courageous steps" and the need to "end bloodshed and suffering", political commentator Murat Yetkin wrote in the liberal Radikal daily.

"If what Atalay announced are indeed steps that will develop (democratic) standards, these are good...but the PKK will not come down from its mountain stronghold just because there is an independent human rights commission and people can use their mother tongue in prisons," he added.

The PKK says Turkey must end military operations, give the country's Kurds officials recognition in the constitution, allow Kurdish-language education and agree to negotiations for a solution for the rebels to end their campaign for self-rule in Turkey's southeast which has claimed some 45,000 lives since 1984.

But even though Atalay underlined the need for a new, more liberal constitution, he ruled out any change to crucial articles that define Turkey as a unitarian state with Turkish as its language.

"This is the breaking point of the government initiative," Guneri Civaoglu said in the popular Milliyet daily.

"Kurdish activists have already said that the recent measures are not enough and a constitutional change, and in fact a new constitution, is in order to achieve more," he added.

Even though the ruling Justice and Develomment Party (AKP) has a comfortable parliamentary majority, it does not have the necessary 367 votes in the 550-seat parliament to change the constitution and is unlikely to get opposition support.

In Friday's parliamentary session, opposition parties launched scathing attacks on the government as security forces forcefully removed three protestors denouncing the planned Kurdish opening.

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Action Party, charged that the government was negotiation with a group blacklisted as a terrorist party while main opposition leader Deniz Baykal accused Erdogan of planning "to destroy and break Turkey up."

"The government is facing a psychological wall that will be very difficult to overcome. Public reaction to the planned meaures are on the rise," Civaoglu said

Erdogan's government has been left alone in its Kurdish opening and is undertaking a huge risk as nationalist Turks raise their voices against the government project, Husnu Mahalli said in the popular Aksam daily.

"While Kurds might be happy about the Kurdish opening, nationalist Turks will become very angry at the government...and provoke the already tense atmosphere in the country," he said.

"Prime Minister Erdogan will be forced into making a choice between" Kurds and nationalist voters, he added.

Date created : 2009-11-14