ANKARA, (Reuters) – The Turkish government said on Thursday it would push ahead with reforms aimed at expanding the rights of minority Kurds despite a court ruling last week that closed down the only Kurdish party in parliament.
The European Union has criticised the ruling, which dealt a new blow to Muslim Turkey’s faltering hopes of joining the bloc.
The AK Party wants to widen Kurdish rights to end decades of conflict with separatists, and Interior Minister Besir Atalay said the government was determined to push forward those efforts despite the Constitutional Court’s ruling Dec. 11.
“The Kurdish initiative will continue with determination, the necessary regulations will be accelerated,” Atalay told a news conference.
He said the government would send legislation to parliament as soon as possible to set up an independent body to investigate cases of torture.
Rights groups say Turkey’s security forces have used torture against suspected Kurdish militants and activists.
Such measure, along with others including loosening restrictions on the once-banned Kurdish language, were announced in November in parliament. They are fiercely opposed by nationalists, who regard them as threat to national unity and see AK itself as pursuing a secret Islamist agenda.
The ban on the Democratic Society Party (DTP) has caused violent protests in towns in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.
Erdogan has called for national unity. The commander of the armed forces on Thursday urged restraint.
“All segments of society need to act with common sense and be aware of provocations. Communal conflict will not bring good to anybody. It will cause great harm,” General Ilker Basbug said in comments broadcast live by Turkish television broadcasters.
The court, using a controversial political parties act, found the DTP guilty of aiding Kurdish separatist PKK rebels.
Analysts say the danger is that the ban on the DTP will further alienate Kurds who have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the state, and could fan support for militants.
Turkey’s separatist conflict has killed 40,000 people.