Ankara praised for addressing Kurdish issues

Oct. 1, 2013 at 11:54 AM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The U.N. rights commission said Tuesday it was encouraged by Turkish efforts to resolve a simmering conflict with members of the Kurdish minority.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled a sweeping package of reforms Monday meant to resolve the 30-year conflict between supporters of the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and the government.

Pro-Kurdish guerrillas declared war on the government in the 1980s in an effort to secure more recognition for the rights of the Kurdish minority.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement Tuesday the reforms were a "positive step" for inclusive democracy in Turkey.

The so-called Kurdish question has been a source of contention for European lawmakers weighing Turkey's efforts to establish a closer relationship with the European Union. Among Erdogan's reforms were concessions for the Kurdish language and a reversal on the ban of traditional headscarves for women.

"The existing restrictions have been addressed by several international human rights mechanisms, including most recently the Human Rights Committee, which expressed concerns about the Kurds' right to enjoy their own culture and use their own language," Shamdasani said.

Erdogan was quoted as saying Monday by Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman the reforms were not the "first but also not the last."

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