Many Kurds worry that the security laws that enable the government to shut down pro-Kurdish newspapers and radio stations will severely limit the effectiveness of the new reforms. What is needed instead, they say, is a fundamental change in Turkish attitudes toward the Kurdish minority.
In an August 29 letter to senior European Union officials, she praised the reforms as "historical," and noted that delay in the application process could make it "impossible to put into practice the recent legal arrangements and to speed up the pace of democratization." Having served slightly more than half of her 15-year sentence, and perhaps more entitled to a cynical view of Turkey's actions than most, Zana hailed the reforms as an affirmation of the "brotherhood between Turks and Kurds." On this view, the reforms might be a cause for measured optimism, a qualified victory in the Kurds' long and ongoing struggle for recognition by their Turkish neighbors.
Jonathan Mingle is the news manager for Cultural Survival Indigenous News. Turkish court acquits Kurdish children over language campaign.
Businesses seeking to answer the overwhelming demand for Kurdish language courses are already running into a tangle of bureaucratic stipulations and delays: The new "Regulation on the teaching of traditional languages and dialects used by Turkish Citizens in their daily lives" requires schools to open up new locations and hire new staff if they want to start Kurdish language programs, requiring capital investments that are not financially feasible for many operations.
For these and many other reasons, the reforms have elicited a mix of cautious hope and heavy skepticism from Kurds in Turkey and abroad.
The reforms have been hailed by many Kurds and human rights advocates as a major step toward greater recognition of Kurds' cultural rights and more equitable treatment for an ethnic group that has long faced institutionalized discrimination in the Muslim world's only "secular democracy." Entrepreneurs are applying in droves for permission to set up private schools for Kurdish language instruction, and Kurdish radio and television broadcasts are now legal on privately owned stations.
Yet Turkey still does not officially recognize the Kurds or any other ethnic group as minorities.Some hard-line members of parliament argue that the reforms are concessions to "separatist" elements, touching on wounds still fresh from the 15-year civil war with the outlawed secessionist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The war ended with a ceasefire in 1999, but not before nearly 37,000 people–mostly Kurds–were killed. Despite the sweeping scope of the reforms, there are few signs the status quo will change.Parents, such as Berdan Acun, are still forbidden from giving their children Kurdish names.The European Union has balked at setting a firm date to commence negotiations on Turkey's membership, citing continuing human rights abuses such as torture and heavy restrictions that remain in place on freedom of expression and association.