Use of non-Turkish languages in education will fortify unity, says former PM Davutoğlu

Former Turkish Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition Future Party Ahmet Davutoğlu has said non-Turkish mother tongues, which often refers to Kurdish in Turkey, being taught in schools and used in social life would fortify a sense of belonging for Turkish citizens, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Saturday.

Davutoğlu, who resigned from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2016 and established the Future Party last year, was speaking at the provincial congress in Van, one of the country’s largest majority-Kurdish provinces.

“Turkey cannot have peace of mind when even a single Kurd has trouble belonging,” Davutoğlu said. “Turkey is not strong if it can’t take care of all Kurds in Van, Diyarbakır, Istanbul, Syria or Iraq.”

Not condemning Kurds to the tutelage of foreign powers, and internalising democratic values will lead Turkey to prosperity and strength, the former prime minister said.

The Future Party wants to “end both the order of kayyums and KCK,” Davutoğlu said.

Kayyums are government-appointed officials who replace elected mayors, primarily from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Fifty-one out of the 63 municipalities HDP won saw the government appointees take over since the March local elections last year.

HDP’s mayors have removed from office on terrorism charges, based on alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). KCK, or the Kurdistan Communities Union, is an umbrella organisation of Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and includes both legal parties and social movements, as well as organisations designated as terrorist by Turkey, like the PKK.

The Kurdish people have suffered under “the PKK on one side, and those who feed off of terrorism on the other,” Davutoğlu said.

Davutoğlu said KCK would force people to vote for the candidate it supported, and that “when the government can’t win your vote, they just send a kayyum to confiscate your will.”

It is unlawful for the interior minister to appoint a replacement for a dismissed mayor, and there should be an election among municipal council members, he said.

“If we build a justice system that doesn’t allow any discrimination, Turkey will get stronger,” he added. “We must not look at Kurds and places they live in the region and in our neighbours as a threat.”

A peace process between Turkey and the PKK fell apart in 2015, while Davutoğlu was still Prime Minister. When the conflict flared up in the aftermath and urban clashes broke out between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK, a historic district that held a significant meaning in Kurdish culture was almost entirely demolished.

Davutoğlu made headlines last year when he said “many people will not be able to go out to face the public,” if the violent events of summer 2015 would be investigated.