While the present Turkish government, or indeed the Ottoman Empire, aren’t perfect, the claims mentioned above overlook the current situation in Turkey and the recent efforts by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to address such issues. They also overlook the dynamic grassroots movements across all sectors of the country that demand the government revise its official position on issues from free speech to the Armenian genocide.
Turkey is in a stage of transformation at the moment, and it’s important to remember that change takes time in these types of situations. The AKP, and Erdogan, can’t overturn decades of official policy relating to issues like that of the Kurds overnight. Why? Because those policies are deeply rooted in the Turkish military’s “secular” and “nationalist” ideology. The military has held a dangerous amount of power since the country was established, overthrowing various governments that it did not deem “nationalistic” enough. To achieve any of the positive changes they’ve set out in their charter, Erdogan and the AKP need to stay in power. And doing that involves a risky political dance around the military’s sensitivities.
Despite that, the AKP has managed to make some strides in issues that have long been considered taboo in Turkish politics. Below are some random excerpts from two articles that discuss Turkey’s stance on the Kurdish question. Read the articles themselves, and do some more research, if you’re interested in getting a better understanding of the shift in Turkish politics regarding issues such as this one.
Turkey raises hopes of peace with Kurds - The Guardian (2007)
As well as securing a national victory on Sunday, Mr Erdogan scored a remarkable triumph in the Kurdish south-east, doubling the vote of his AKP or Justice and Development party in mainly Kurdish areas to win an absolute majority of the vote with 52%.
"The AKP beat us. The government now has complete power and legitimacy," said a Kurdish official in the regional capital of Diyarbakir.
Having received such a vote of confidence from the Kurds, Mr Erdogan is unlikely to alienate them ...
In addition to the AKP's electoral success in the Kurdish areas, the main Kurdish party in Turkey, the DTP, took 23 seats, putting it in the new parliament for the first time since 1994. The DTP is seen as the political wing of the PKK. The Turkish election system is stacked against it by setting a 10% national threshold for representation in parliament. The DTP beat the system by running candidates as independents.
"That will make a difference," said Hizsar Ozsoy, a Kurdish analyst in Diyarbakir. "There's definitely a chance for a political opening."
The Erdogan camp has been trying to open political channels to the Kurdish leadership in Iraq for months, but has been stymied by the military top brass and the outgoing hostile president of Turkey.
Behind Major Changes for Turkey's Kurds - Canada's Embassy Magazine (2009)
Many of the changes percolating within Turkish society are linked to the electoral victory of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AK) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which came to power in 2002 and was re-elected with a sweeping majority in 2007.
Despite widespread distrust of the AK Party's Islamic background, especially amongst ultra-nationalists and the military, Mr. Erdogan initiated a series of political and social reforms that permitted greater protection for basic human rights, including for minorities. (He was also receptive to Greek efforts to lessen tension between the two NATO allies over territorial disputes and Cyprus.)
... [R]ecent actions directed against Erdogan have diminished his commitment to promote further reforms in order to appease opponents, especially the military, perceived as wanting a tougher line towards Kurdish militancy and PKK insurgents based in northern Iraq's Kurdistan province.
Whereas many within the global community are convinced reforms and meaningful changes are necessary to deal with the current problems confronting various societies, in Turkey, change can be a highly divisive issue with no one sure where that country's current changes will ultimately lead.