ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Kurdish legislators vowed Sunday to press on with a boycott of Turkey’s parliament and backed a recent declaration of autonomy in the country’s Kurd-dominated southeast. The defiant stances came as Kurdish rebels killed six people while military airstrikes targeted their hideouts.
The developments underscored the challenge facing the Islamist-oriented government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in dealing with the Kurds, even as it has taken some steps to improve relations with the long-marginalized ethnic group that makes up some 20 percent of Turkey’s 74 million people.
The European Union, which Turkey is striving to join, has pushed Erdogan’s government to grant more rights to the Kurds. But EU countries also have urged Kurdish lawmakers to distance themselves from the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and the EU.
During a convention Sunday for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party in Ankara, Kurdish legislators complained that the government has made little headway toward resolving the conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people, and granting Kurds more political and cultural rights.
The Kurdish legislators were elected in June, but they have pledged not to take an oath of office until five pro-Kurdish legislators held on charges of rebel ties are freed. They also have insisted that another Kurdish politician, Hatip Dicle, whose election was canceled due to a conviction for rebel links, be allowed to take office.
The Turkish government recently took steps toward wider Kurdish-language education by allowing Kurdish-language institutes and private Kurdish courses as well as Kurdish-language television broadcasts.
But the government refuses to allow lower-level education in Kurdish, fearing that it could divide the country along ethnic lines. It also regards the declaration of autonomy as a separatist move and rules out any concessions on the country’s unity.
In recent weeks, the Turkish military has carried out airstrikes against suspected Kurdish hideouts in northern Iraq following a series of rebel attacks that killed dozens of soldiers. As many as 160 guerrillas were believed to have been killed in artillery fire and airstrikes as of Aug. 22, the military said.
On Sunday, Turkish warplanes hit suspected Kurdish rebel bases around northern Iraq’s Choman village. Its mayor, Abdul-Wahid Gwani, confirmed the strikes but did not have any information on casualties. Iraq’s Kurd-dominated north has a relatively high degree of autonomy.
On Sunday, the insurgents killed two village guards who fight alongside Turkish troops against the guerrillas, said Gov. Muammer Turker of the southeastern Hakkari province. Four other village guards were wounded.
On Sunday evening, the rebels opened fire on policemen who were playing soccer in the eastern city of Tunceli, killing one policeman and his wife, who was a spectator at the game, the state-run Anatolia news agency said, citing Gov. Mustafa Taskesen.
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