Linguistic repression has often been used as a tool to strip identity from a cultural group. Basque and Catalán in Spain during Franco’s rule, Hawaiian after the US overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, and several languages in the Soviet Union under Stalin.
For most it is a policy of the past. Not in Turkey where you can be fined and/or arrested for using the letters Q, W, X. These letters exist in an “unknown” language, but not in Turkish. The cartoon I’ve pasted here is from the Alliance for Kurdish Rights website and was inspired by the arrest of several youth in Turkey for singing in Kurdish.
Parliament says Kurdish ’unknown’
by Göksel Bozkurt
ANKARA – Whatever efforts Parliament has made on strengthening Kurdish culture, the prevailing mentality has been exposed in an official record that referred to a Kurdish greeting as, “A statement made in an unknown language.”
Although the government has resumed work on establishing a Kurdish television channel, to be broadcast on state network TRT as part of efforts to strengthen cultural rights in the Southeast, the recent incident in Parliament highlights the ongoing official perception toward the Kurdish language.
Democratic Society Party, or DTP, Deputy Osman Özçelik prepared a greeting card, which the parliamentary printing house refused to print on the grounds it contained a statement in Kurdish. Özçelik’s greeting card celebrated the Sacrifice Feast in both the Turkish and Kurdish languages.
After the refusal by the parliament’s printing services, Özçelik had his greeting cards printed by a private printer. However, he has still not circulated them in Parliament.
The DTP deputy raised the issue during a discussion on a draft law last Thursday and criticized the state’s attitude toward the Kurdish language. Stating Turkish names are recognized in Bulgaria and education in the Turkish language there is also free. Özçelik said Turkey’s own Kurdish citizens were denied similar recognition and treatment.
Reading from his greeting card, Özçelik said, “I celebrate your Sacrifice Feast and wish you success in your work,” both in Turkish and Kurdish. His statements were initially recorded in the Kurdish language in Parliament’s official report but later Parliament intervened in the records and the message in the Kurdish language was removed.
DTP deputy blames denial politics
“Statements were made in an unknown language by the speaker,” the record now states, instead of stating a message was read in the Kurdish language.
“My language is not an unknown language. Kurdish is a language which has been spoken for 10,000 years. It has its own literature, art and poetry. Currently it is spoken by 40 million people. This attitude is ’denial politics’ and goes beyond illiteracy,” Özçelik told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. He said such attitudes did not help peace in the country.
Özçelik said a similar incident occurred just after he was elected as a deputy. When he wrote Kurdish and French as his foreign languages in Parliament’s album, “They removed the Kurdish language, but did not touch the French,” he said. Özçelik said he would submit a censorship complaint to Parliament’s presidency.
The European Union has been supportive of the use of the Kurdish language in broadcasting, schools and in the public sector. “No measures have been taken to facilitate access to public services for non-speakers of Turkish. According to a law on political parties, the use of languages other than Turkish remains illegal in political life. A large number of investigations and court cases have been launched against DTP executives in this context,” the EU said in its latest progress report published in November.