Press Conference – ‘Dialogue for a peaceful solution of the Kurdish issue in Turkey’ at the European Parliament Strasbourg


Richard Howitt’s speech at the Press Conference – ‘Dialogue for a peaceful solution of the Kurdish issue in Turkey’ at the European Parliament Strasbourg


Richard Howitt  of Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D) is a Member of the European Parliament for the Labour Party for the East of England.

Richard Howitt (S&D) – “Mr President, some in this debate have once again used this issue simply to bash Turkey; they have no interest in specific political and human rights of the Kurdish community. However, those of us who have pushed for this full European Parliament plenary debate do, and it is right that those arguments are aired. We seek to persuade Turkey that, although their definition of what it means to be a minority is different from the one adopted in this Chamber, as a future member of the European Union, supporting a pluralist society in which minority rights are fully accepted is part of being a member of the European Union and is not a threat to the unity of the state.

We want our Turkish friends and colleagues to understand that we understand that this is a difficult and sensitive issue in their society. I would never have believed myself that there would be direct talks with Abdullah Öcalan, but the progress that has been made has been made because we have applied constant pressure, and we must continue to do so, as we are doing in this debate today. In that context, it is not just for the government to move: I would like to acknowledge the movement by the opposition Republican People’s Party, the CHP, that has taken place.

Teaching of the Kurdish language in Turkish schools is essential, as is its use in police stations and courts and elsewhere in public service. I welcome the new law for Kurdish to be used in legal defence. However, when I went to a court case in the KCK trials in Diyarbakir, I was prevented from entering the courtroom, and I saw the defendants’ lawyers walk out because Kurdish was not able to be used in those cases, although I had been told beforehand that an opportunity would occur. Many mayors and political activists remain in jail, arrested because they campaigned in the Kurdish language, and it is essential that all political prisoners are released.

I join with others who say that the Kurdish community itself must distance itself from violence and must support disarmament and not be triumphalist, as occurred when demobilisation took place. For either side there is no military solution to this conflict. The winner must be peace.”

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