Legislators have begun drafting a bill that would change a law banning the use of the letters “q,” “w” and “x” -- a move spurred by the start of Kurdish-language broadcasts on state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corporation’s (TRT) TRT 6 station at the beginning of this year.
TRT 6 makes use of the letters q, w and x, which are used in Kurdish but not in Turkish; however, the use of these letters is banned in official correspondence because they are not included in the Turkish alphabet. Those who defy the ban face the risk of being sentenced to up to six months in prison. Public prosecutors continue to file lawsuits against those who use these letters in their writings in Kurdish.
Although the dedication of one of TRT’s stations to broadcasting in Kurdish was welcomed as a late but pleasing move, the use of the language in public correspondence has remained a problem.
Bringing attention to the issue, pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) leader Ahmet Türk said TRT’s use of the letters q, w and x was in violation of the Constitution.
DTP deputy Gülten Kışanak said there is a double standard in that TRT can use the letters in its broadcasts in Kurdish but DTP mayors have in the past been prosecuted for distributing invitation letters written in Kurdish.
The public use of Kurdish was prohibited following the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup and the adoption of the 1982 Constitution, a product of the military regime. In 1991, then President Turgut Özal removed some of the restrictions over the use of Kurdish.
DTP lawmakers are also working on a draft bill to allow the use of the letters in official correspondence, a move that is likely to incur the wrath of nationalists.
Some Kurdish politicians said TRT 6 had political motives because the DTP and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) have been exchanging bitter words in the run-up to the March 29 local elections. The AK Party hopes to make more gains in the Kurdish Southeast.
The AK Party’s draft legislation is, however, not expected to be discussed by Parliament before the local elections are over.
Another recent initiative by the Justice Ministry will allow non-Turkish speaking inmates to communicate in their mother tongues, including Kurdish. Officials will rely on the inmates’ word about their knowledge of Turkish but will have the right to record the conversation. If officials find any misconduct in an inmate’s communication with a person, then the inmate will not be allowed to speak with that person in a language other than Turkish. In such cases, inmates may also face additional charges.
The government also plans to establish Kurdish institutes at universities in order to make academic contributions to improving knowledge of the Kurdish language and literature in society.
Tody's Zaman, 23 January 2009, Friday, ERCAN YAVUZ ANKARA