November 1, 2004 Monday 11:04 AM Eastern Time
Turkish conference on minority rights’ report ends in chaos
A debate over a report criticising breaches of minority rights in
aspiring European Union member Turkey collapsed when members of a
government-sponsored human rights group, which authored the document,
clashed in public.
The incident is the latest in a series of rows within the Human
Rights Advisory Board — a body attached to the office of Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — which highlighted widespread hostility
in Turkey to advanced cultural freedoms for the country’s Kurdish and
Nationalist members of the board, which is comprised of government
officials, academics and civic groups, sabotaged a news conference
called to formally release the report, which makes some controversial
recommendations to the government and excerpts of which were last week
leaked to the media.
Shortly after the head of the board, Ibrahim Kaboglu, began
speaking a nationalist unionist grabbed the papers from his hands and
tore them to pieces, yelling: “This report is a fabrication and should
be torn apart.”
Kaboglu was forced to leave the hall, stating: “We cannot even hold
a news conference. This is the state of freedom of thought in Turkey.”
The EU, which Turkey is seeking to join, has long pressed Ankara to
grant equal cultural freedoms to its sizeable Kurdish minority as well
as smaller, non-Muslim communities such as Greeks, Armenians and Jews.