Questioned by SP Senator, President Gül acknowledges past ill-treatment of Kurds

4 October 2007

Questioned by SP Senator, President Gül acknowledges past ill-treatment of Kurds

In answer to questions from SP Senator Tiny Kox, Turkish President Abdullah Gül, following his speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), acknowledged that his country had in the past denied political and cultural rights to its Kurdish population. He promised improvements and said that he was proud of the present government's reform policies. Kurds now enjoy the right, via Kurdish-language newspapers and broadcasters, freely to express their views, the President said in his first address to an international body since his election.

Tiny KoxTo begin with it appeared that President Gül would have nothing to say about the Kurdish question in his country. SP Senator Tiny Kox, Chair of the United European Left group (known by its French acronym, GUE) in the Assembly, challenged him, however, to answer questions from the delegates. He reminded Mr Gül that he had himself been a member of PACE for as long as nine years in the past, and suggested that "our former member should tell the current President that he should be giving us answers. The words 'yes', 'no' and 'perhaps' must surely exist also in Turkish."

Abdullah GülGül responded by admitting that in the past Kurdish inhabitants of his country had suffered disadvantages, but argues that as a result of the reforms carried out by the present government they were now able to exercise their political and cultural rights. He invited PACE members to come to Turkey and see with their own eyes Kurdish-language billboards, newspapers and television programmes, adding that he was "proud that we have these things". President Gül's predecessors invariably denied the existence of a Kurdish problem, in contrast to his statement that Turkey now embraced its citizens' cultural diversity.

Describing the President's words as a small but important step forward, Tiny Kox said that "the new President at least no longer denies the painful past, and he recognises the need for change and improvement. A great deal remains to be done to put an end to discrimination against the Kurdish population, however. The Kurdish people should use President Gül's words to demand action from the government.”

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