Turkey to make Kurdish inflight announcements

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Turkey will add Kurdish to the languages in which inflight announcements are made, one of the steps among post-election reform plans of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government which surfaced amid criticisms targeting the ruling party over its inaction in regard to expanding fundamental rights and freedoms.

The government will also speed up renaming southeastern towns populated mostly by Kurdish citizens, where name changes from Turkish to Kurdish were seen as necessary. Signs located at town boundaries will also be changed accordingly.

Making inflight announcements in Kurdish and speeding up renaming mostly Kurdish-populated towns were among the steps discussed back during the Kurdish peace talks that collapsed after violence between Turkish security forces and militants from the  Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) reignited last summer, shattering a fragile peace process and a two-and-a-half year de facto period of non-conflict.

Regarding promises made to the Kurdish citizens of Turkey, the government has classified the planned steps into two parts, those that can be carried out through administrative decisions and those that can be carried out through legal arrangements. Kurdish inflight announcements on airlines will be launched through an administrative decision by releasing the required notification for its implementation. Reforming local governance and education in Kurdish will not be a part of this package.

The government plans to swiftly take action on certain issues that have long been on the agenda by either making legal arrangements or administrative announcements amid an agenda dominated by terrorist attacks and counterterrorism operations.

Future reforms include the opening the Akdamar (Akhtamar in Armenian) Church in the southeastern city of Van (which was reopened to occasional prayers in 2010 after a hiatus of nearly 100 years) to all requests for sermons, accelerating the return of properties to non-Muslim minorities, in addition announcements in Kurdish in airlines services and allowing towns to be called by their original names.

With these steps, the government aims to show that democratization and counterterrorism operations are different issues that do not hamper each other.

Since 2010, the church on the isle of Akdamar on Lake Van has been open to annual masses with special permission by the Culture and Tourism Ministry. In the case of appeal, the ministry will permit sermons other than the annual masses.

Despite previously made legal arrangements, difficulties still exist in the return of properties to non-Muslim communities. Required arrangements will be made in order to overcome these difficulties usually stemming from bureaucratic obstacles.

Nonetheless, the reopening of the Halki seminary in the Adalar district of Istanbul will not be part of this reform package, as this issue will be separately reviewed in line with international developments.

Concerning the Alevis long-held desire for an official status for Alevi worship houses (cemevis), the AKP will now regard cemevis as “wisdom centers.” Legal arrangements will be made to have the water and electricity expenses of cemevis paid by the state, as is already the case for mosques, which are covered by a budget allocated by the Directorate General of Religious Affairs (Diyanet).

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