voice is concerns abou he deerioraion o press reedom and reedom o expressionin he domesic poliical conex. Given he wave o popular mobilizaion in he regionand he careul negoiaions beween he urkish governmen and Kurdish separaiss,i is more imporan han ever o preserve he democraic naure o he “urkish model,” which we discuss in more deail below.
o undersand he curren poliical siuaion and he imporance o reinorcing demo-craic principles over he coming years, i is necessary o provide some hisorical conexo press reedom and reedom o expression in urkey.During he lae 1980s and early 1990s, journaliss were argeed and someimes killed by acors ranging rom ulranaionaliss o Islamiss, ar leiss o he Kurdish Workers’Pary, or PKK, who seek Kurdish auonomy and greaer legal and culural proecions.Curren Prime Miniser Recep ayyip Erdoğan’s AKP has successully deused much o he violence ha characerized he exreme polarizaion o urkish sociey in hose yearssince coming o power in 2003. Bu he 2007 murder o urkish-Armenian edior HranDink, sho ouside his newspaper’s oces in Isanbul or advocaing ocial recogniiono he Armenian genocide,
served as a reminder ha he violence underlying poliicalensions and reedom o expression in urkey has no disappeared.
The “Kurdish issue,” as it is delicately reerred to in Turkey, is one majorhistorical legacy shaping the current political environment and aectingpress reedom. Approximately 15 million Kurds—an ethnic and linguisticminority inhabiting parts o Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran—live in Turkeytoday,
with the vast majority being ully integrated into Turkish societyand many living in major urban centers, particularly Istanbul.Despite widespread acceptance o Kurds and their integration withbroader Turkish society, or decades the ultranationalist Turkish stateattempted to suppress Kurdish cultural and linguistic diversity, banning,or example, the use o the Kurdish language until 1991.
The remnantso this repression remain visible, as the politics surrounding the Kurdishlanguage and culture are still hotly debated, particularly in the heav-ily Kurdish southeast, and nationalists continue to use ears o Kurdishautonomy to appeal politically to older Turks raised on strict Kemalistdoctrine. The PKK, a ar-let guerilla group labeled a terrorist organiza-tion by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union, has alsoexploited these ears to continue their decades-long struggle or Kurdishindependence and autonomy. More than 40,000 people have died in thisght since the 1980s.
Several peace initiatives have been introducedand ailed over the past decade, and violence, while down rom its peak in the mid-1990s, has continued.The AKP has worked to address some o the cultural concerns o theKurdish minority, allowing the use o Kurdish language and permittingpeaceul Kurdish political mobilization. Nonetheless, most Turks have beeneducated in highly nationalist curriculums and remember the violence o the PKK movement, and are thus deeply wary o any hint o separatism.This has led to pressure on the AKP to continue security operations againstthe PKK and to avoid concessions to the Kurds. The extreme sensitivityo the Kurdish issue in Turkish politics means it bleeds into areas such asreedom o the press. Many reporters or editors reporting on PKK activitiesor discussing Kurdish cultural or political activities have aced censorship,arrest, threats, or outright violence.In this context, shaping a lasting and peaceul solution to the Kurdish issuehas proved dicult. The past six months have seen considerable progress,however: A ceasere negotiated between the government and Abdullah
calan, the PKK’s jailed leader,
has led to a wider peace initiative and thebest chance or a settlement since the confict began.
The Kurdish issue