TRT6 has a ban on 60 Kurdish words. These words may not be used in broadcasts on the Turkish government’s much-vaunted Kurdish-language station. Are these words offensive? Perhaps akin to the late US comedian George Carlin’s seven words you can never say on television? No, not in the least. These 60 Kurdish words are banned says TRT management because Roj-TV uses these words!
Hmm. Roj-TV broadcasts in Kurdish, right? So doesn’t it make sense that there’s going to be some overlap in word usage? Roj-TV says ‘navnetewî’ (international) so TRT6 can’t? Roj-TV says ‘tenduristî’ (health) so TRT6 says to use the Turkish word ‘sıhhat’ instead? Bizarre.
The proscription of these words was revealed by former TRT6 employee Rengin Elçi, who ended up quitting because of the situation. Elçi argued that you simply cannot ‘replace’ words in Kurdish for others of Arabic, Persian, or Turkish origin, as TRT6 was insisting.
When Elçi began to talk to TRT6 management about the grammatical structure of the language and the spelling of words, for example how you cannot put double letters together in Kurdish (so sıhhat cannot be Kurdish), a staff member of TRT6 shouted, ‘And you have an Oxford Kurdish dictionary!’
Former TRT6 coordinator Sinan Ilhan, who doesn’t even know two words of Kurdish, also claimed that the general Kurdish public wouldn’t understand these 60 words. He knows no Kurdish and was making the decisions on behalf of the native speakers of the language. A rather demeaning assumption and totally off the mark.
But there is a more insidious reason for this ban. The idea that these words have been pulled from TRT6 for their usage on Roj-TV or that ordinary Kurds won’t understand them is a smokescreen. The government, rather, is trying to prevent the Kurdish language from flourishing.
I contacted Deniz Ekici, Kurdish linguist and expert on the Kurdish language, and now an Assistant Professor at Middle Tennessee State University, for his opinion about this. Said Ekici via an email to Kurdistan Commentary:
The TRT authorities banned the said words on the pretext that these words are used by Roj-TV, as if Roj-TV had coined these words. These are pure Kurdish words used by Kurds from all four parts of Kurdistan. It seems like the real reason behind this outrageous decision is that the Turkish government wants to compel the TRT6 staff and the production companies to use the Turkish equivalents of these words, for instance ‘tarîx’ instead of ‘dîrok’; ‘ordu’ instead of ‘artêş’; ‘savci’ instead of ‘dozger’; ‘direktor’ or ‘yonetmen’ instead of ‘derhêner’ and so forth. It is important to note that none of the supposedly Turkish equivalents are really Turkish words. They are all Arabic except for ‘yonetmen’ and the French word ‘direktor’ (from ‘directour’). However, the audience thinks that these are pure Turkish words for they do not speak Arabic or French or other foreign languages, for that matter, from which Turkish has borrowed extensively. By forcing the TRT staff to use ‘Turkish’ words the Turkish state aims to humiliate and make a mockery of the Kurdish language, which in turn reinforces the Turkish state discourse on Kurdish that claims that it is not really a language for it has only a few hundred words of its own and that other words are borrowed from Turkish and other languages and, by extension, the claim that Kurdish is a dialect of Turkish. What is more, in this way the Turkish state tries to invalidate the most vital attribute of Kurdish nation, that is the Kurdish language.
Additionally, TRT6 will not let broadcasters use Kurdish pronunciations of Kurdish towns either. Announcers must say Mardin instead of Mêrdîn, for example.
In a recent survey conducted by the Turkish government to find out who is watching what, Roj-TV won out. TRT6 didn’t even appear in the top ten channels watched by Kurds in Turkey. The survey found that Kurds would rather watch TV in Turkish than tune in to TRT6.
Here is the list of the banned words:
aram: quiet, calm
arîşe: problem, challenge, issue
belavok: flyer, pamphlet
dadgeh: court (of law)
damezrandin: to establish
darayî: financial, monetary
derhêner: producer (cinema)
dîmen: view, landscape, scenery
dozger: public prosecutor
helwest: attitude, standpoint
hîndekar: teacher, trainer
merc: condition, circumstances
nakokî: conflict, dispute, discrepancy
niqaş: discussion, debate
nûjen: contemporary, modern
parêzger: lawyer, advocate
pejirandin: to accept
perwerde: education, schooling
pêşkeş: present, gift
pêwîst: necessary, requisite
pispor: expert, specialist
raman: to think, idea
raya gel: public opinion
rêxistin: to organise
şaredarî: municipal government
tawanbarî: allegation, accusing
taybetî: specialty, genius
têkoşîn: to try, attempt; to struggle
zanyarî: information, knowledge
Sterk, Rewîn. TRT 6, 60 Kürtçe kelimeye yasak getirdi. ANF, 07 December 2010.