Thursday, 10 December 2009

Circassians latest to demand rights in Turkey

Dec. 9 - Hurriyet Daily News - The Circassians, a small section of Turkish citizens, have granted support to the government’s recent democratic initiative, saying that rights should be granted to all communities in TuKalınrkey without having to resort to violence or racism. They say the Constitution should be amended to better ensure individual rights and to remove any mention of ethnicity

Although the recent Kurdish initiative in Turkey is focused on Kurds’ rights, there are others who say they are in the game, too. Approximately 1,600 Circassians launched the “Circassian Initiative for Democracy” to voice the demands of Circassians living in Turkey.

“We came together to voice democratic rights for everyone in Turkey. These rights should not be dependant on any kind of ethnicity but on the grounds of citizenship,” said Yalçın Karadaş, spokesperson of the initiative, at a press conference in Istanbul on Wednesday.

At the conference, Hulusi Üstün, another spokesperson, listed the Circassians’ requests, saying that first the Circassian language should be offered as an elective course in areas in Turkey with high Circassian populations. “The Circassian language has several dialects and some of these have already died from not being used by the young generation,” he said.

Üstün said the group’s second request was to have a center established to collect and research the Circassians’ cultural and historical assets that have been dispersed to different geographies.

He said the group’s official history had to be “repaired” and all the discourses that falsely accuse communities including Circassians should be removed from history textbooks and official history.

Members of the Circassian initiative complained that Circassians have been depicted in textbooks as a rebellious community, which has undermined their contribution to history and culture. “Circassians published the first magazine with the Latin alphabet and launched the first sports club in Turkey, but these are unknown truths,” said Karadaş, who is also an architect.

Another request was for the Constitution to be amended with civil society and individual rights in mind and it should not have any mention of ethnic identities, said Karadaş. “Any emphasis on ethnicity in the Constitution as well as in the democratic initiativewill harm the country and the communities living in it,” said Karadaş.

Refraining from being associated with separatist groups or ideologies, the Circassian initiative members underlined the importance of calling for democracy through peaceful measures. “Among the Circassian community in Turkey, some might accuse us of being separatist. To the contrary, if this democratic initiative is stopped, then Turkey will deteriorate,” said Karadaş.

The Circassian Initiative for Democracy was launched to voice all the people’s rights, not only Circassians, in a peaceful way by using dialog, said Karadaş, adding that the initiative is focused on voicing demands through peaceful channels. “No one deserves to die for the right to education in their mother tongue,” said Karadaş, recalling Serap Eser, 17, who recently killed in a bus by a Molotov cocktail thrown by alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. “We are not planning to go to the streets to voice our demands because the streets are open to provocation,” he said.

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