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The obstacles to use Kurdish language in the public sphere

Editorial: The European society has widely ignored the suffering of Kurdish people in Turkey in the 20th century. Whereas civil rights and peace developed after World War II in Western Europe, millions of women and men were deprived of their basic human rights in the Eastern part of our neighbour country. Only at the edge of 21st century with a reformist and islamic government in Ankara and the dynamics of the EU accession process attention is given to this region, which is now open for the world and not closed under military law. You can travel through Kurdish mountains and meet the perople in remote areas and villages, learn about the desctruction of Kurdish villages and towns and the huge number of internally displaced people (IDPs) that amount to half a million alone in the biggest Kurdish metropole – Diyarbakir.

It is time for a change. Ridiculous laws regulating the use of a language which is the mother tongue for millions of people in Turkey have to disappear. Nearly a hundred years after its foundation Turkey can afford an open society with all liberties and modern patterns as we are used to in the European Union for more than five decades.

People in the Kurdish region of Turkey are still skeptical about the reform process and want to speed it up. The actual national discussion about the reform of the constitution gives an excedllent opportunity to engage into the reforms needed. Freedom of expression should no longer be measured by a juridical institution which is hostile to reforms and democratic decisions and election results. Opposing values that come from the 18th century shoudl no longer be criminalized. Turkey has become an adult and is no longer the “sick man at the Bosporus”.

It is time to act. People should no longer be scared to use their local language in public, in meetings, in media, everywhere. Children and youth must have access to Kurdish books and libraries. Turkish and Kurdish language must have a curricula in schools and universities in Turkey. And whereas the Turkish language will stay the national language of Turkey, the original names of Kurdish cities and towns, regions and people should return into being, like DERSIM, the massacred tiny town in the mountains which was taken hostage by Turkish military in 1938 without a single outcry from Europe.

This publication is documenting obstacles of using Kurdish language in Turkey. Some of these regulastions are meanwhile being changed or disappear. But the trials against using Kurdish language continue: against Kurdish mayors and writers and journalists.

This must come to an end.

The Eruropean Commission in Brussels and the European Parliament have demanded these changes and we will follow up.

Gerd Greune

IFIAS President

Brussels, 3rd May 2008

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