Turkish PM dives into language debate

ÇA?LA PINAR TUNÇEL
ISTANBUL
 AA photo
AA photo

Hitting out at criticism by the pro-Kurdish party leader, the prime minister on Monday defended his party’s stance on the Kurdish issue, saying Turkish should stay the official language but mother tongues can be used.
“I never used a statement about a single language,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said in a campaign rally in Istanbul’s Ata?ehir district
“We initially considered education in mother tongue and launched Kurdish courses and a state television channel in Kurdish as well; however, we did not say the official language would be different from Turkish,” he said.
“We do not recognize a second official language but everyone should be able to speak their mother tongue. We are against ethnic, regional and language nationalism,” Erdo?an added.
Officials with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, had accused Erdo?an of saying Turkey should be home to a single language and a single religion.
The prime minister also addressed criticism by main opposition chief Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu about his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, stance on local independence for municipalities. “We paved the way for local administrations to use their [own] initiative,” Erdo?an said. “[K?l?çdaro?lu] has no idea about what we have done.”

A large crowd welcomed the prime minister to Ata?ehir district, which he announced would be a finance center of the city.

“Let me recall the moments of former governments, [when] the shops were closed and cash registers were torched in front of the prime ministry. Who were the ruling parties at those times?” Erdo?an asked during his AKP campaign rally.

Those parties, he said, were the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and the Democratic Left Party, or DSP, the “sister party” of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP.

The prime minister accused CHP chief K?l?çdaro?lu of creating an alliance with the BDP during his recent visit to Eastern Anatolia, while partnering with the MHP in the country’s west. The CHP meetings in the country’s East and Southeast gathered supporters not of the main opposition but of the BDP, Erdo?an said.

Some of the AKP supporters gathered in Ata?ehir on Monday felt faint from the heat while standing out in the sun. Others expressed happiness that their letters requesting a job or financial aid had reached the prime minister.

All banners not previously approved by the police, even those supporting the AKP, were forbidden from the rally.

In his speech, Erdo?an also announced electronic book readers would be given to schoolchildren. “Why should my Ahmet and Mehmet not receive whatever George or Edward would receive in developed countries [as a public service]?” the prime minister asked.

The prime minister said his party had raised educational scholarships to a higher level than any previous government. During the AKP’s time in power, 163,000 classrooms have been opened and three different social security institutes have been established so people can receive health services without waiting in long lines.

“Now we are glad we do not need any foreign help,” said a Turkish man who worked in Germany during the 1970s.

According to Erdo?an, the AKP inherited a state that was in debt, a country that was suffering from a variety of problems, ranging from education to health.


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