The trial, arguably the largest in the history of Turkey, began last week. They really haven’t even started yet though as they’re still reading out the 7,500 page indictment. If they read 40 pages an hour and read continuously for eight hours a day, that’s 23.5 days just to read the indictment. And the trial goes until 12 November—16 days from now.
Day after day the imprisoned Kurdish politicians and lawyers are brought into the courthouse. Each is allowed to be accompanied by one family member. There are also nearly 300 lawyers defending the accused. Needless to say, the courthouse is packed.
The Kurds on trial are not allowed to defend themselves in Kurdish. At rollcall, however, they say in Kurdish Ez li vir im. Ez amade me. I am here. I am ready. Turkish law says that if the defendants know Turkish well enough, then they have to use Turkish in court.
Evin Cetin, a Kurdish jurist and politician from Sweden who is observing the trial says that ‘[p]reventing the defendants from speaking in their mother tongue is illegal according to international standards because this means preventing the defendants from defending themselves. It was the court’s duty to bring in interpreters and not depriving them of the right to speak Kurdish.’
She also believes that the defendants will stay in prison until after parliamentary elections in 2011, because Erdoğan’s AK Party wants to ‘weaken the Kurds and deprive the Kurdish front of its progressive and seasoned politicians.’
Osman Baydemir, Mayor of Diyarbakır, is also a defendant. He is on trial for the charge of ‘terrorism’ and thinks that some defendants will ‘be released in order to please Europe but there will be more arrests too.’
Baydemir said on Wednesday of the trial: ‘If it is a crime to demand my culture, identity, language then yes I am a criminal.’
On top of this, TRT chose this week to launch the first-ever comedy show in Kurdish on the state-run TRT6 channel. Cîran, Cîran, which translates as ‘Neighbour, Neighbour’ was announced with great fanfare and is about a few expatriate Kurdish families living in Istanbul. There was a gala event at a posh hotel with government officials, media officials, and others to watch a preview of the show.
Selahattin Demirtaş, BDP co-chair, slammed TRT6 on Tuesday asking why Kurdish could be broadcast on the state-run channel but not used in a court of law. Demirtaş said that this shows Erdoğan’s inconsistency in dealing with the Kurds. ‘If they are your brothers then let them speak their language. Erdoğan is always saying the parliament is the place to solve the problem then he should not treat Kurdish politicians like political hostages.’
So on the TV you have slapstick comedy (in Kurdish) and in Diyarbakır a farcical, politicised trial of Kurdish politicians and humanitarians (in Turkish). Which is the comedy?
When Baydemir called for demands for Kurdish culture, identity, and language it is doubtful he was thinking of something as inane as Cîran, Cîran.
Fifth day of trial against Kurdish politicians started. ANF News Agency, 25 October 2010.
Baydemir: We want a regional parliament. Rojhelat, 27 October 2010.
Deniz, Mediya and Fatima Avci. Trial of Kurds Viewed as Touchstone of Turkish Democracy. Rudaw, 26 October 2010.
First Kurdish sit-com to kick off on the state-run TRT 6. World Bulletin, 23 October 2010.
Demirtas: PM is considering the defendants as political hostages. ANF News Agency, 26 October 2010.