September 30, 2013 - 14:13 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has unveiled a long-anticipated package of reforms designed “to strengthen democracy and keep on track a fragile settlement process” to end the conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), according to Today’s Zaman.
He said the reform package is a critical step to stop bloodshed in Turkey.
The announcement of the "democratization package" follows the declaration earlier this month by the PKK that it had halted its withdrawal of militants from Turkey because the government had failed to take steps it had agreed to.
The most important reforms include removing restrictions of wearing Islamic headscraves, possibility of education in mother tongue, restoration of original names of villages, districts and provinces that existed before 1980, sweeping changes in law on political parties, possibility of lowering 10 percent electoral threshold in entering Parliament, improving assembly freedom and other small rights for religious and ethnic minorities.
Other changes were related to law on political parties. Erdoğan said parties who exceed 3 percent of votes in general elections will get necessary state funding. According to Turkish law, parties need to receive at least seven percent to be eligible for state funding.
Moreover, the reforms bring more freedom for citizens to become party members. Erdoğan said the package envisages lifting obstacles that restrict citizens to become members of political parties.
Another drastic and much-expected reform is education in schools in another language. The reforms will make it possible for students to receive education in their mother tongue in educational facilities. The schools will able to deliver education in languages besides the official Turkish language, the prime minister said. The measure opened the way for Kurds, who long demanded the government grant full education in Kurdish language, to establish private schools providing education in Kurdish language. Erdoğan said, however, certain lessons will again be provided in Turkish language.
Erdoğan said the reforms will also remove restrictions on the wearing of Islamic headscarves in public spaces. The ban, however, will remain in effect for judges, prosecutors and military personnel. Muslim but secular Turkey has long had tough restrictions on the garb worn by women working in state offices.
The reforms include returning properties of religious and ethnic minorities and establishing language and cultural institute for Roma citizens. Erdoğan announced plans to return Mor Gabriel monastery property belonging to Syriac Christians that was seized by the state. He said works are underway to return properties of other religious minorities.
He said several restrictions on charity activities are also loosened or lifted.
Parliament returns from its summer recess on Oct 1 to vote on the package and will vote on the package.