Apparently Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir’s remarks that armed struggle is no longer valid have resulted in admonishment by imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan. This comes at a time when civil disobedience seems to be gaining ground, a non-violent alternative to armed struggle. In mid-September thousands of school children across Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast stayed away from school to protest the lack of Kurdish-language education in Turkish state schools.
There is now a campaign afoot called ‘Read, Speak, Write in Kurdish Everywhere’, launched against the prohibition of the Kurdish language in certain spheres in Turkey.
TZPKurdî (Tevgera Ziman û Perwerdahiya Kurdî) is one of the organisations spearheading the effort.
TZPKurdî suggests three measures: 1) to promote the Kurdish language in education, 2) to speak the language in private as well as in public venues and 3) to speak it at all political events. Currently, the use of Kurdish in the political arena is forbidden according to the Law on Political Parties.
NGOs and associations that support the campaign plan to coordinate Kurdish language courses at their offices. Those indicted with charges of speaking in Kurdish intend to defend themselves in court in Kurdish.
Some organisations which have announced their support for the ‘Read, Speak, Write in Kurdish Everywhere’campaign include: Human Rights Association Diyarbakır Branch, Education Trade Union Diyarbakır Branch, the Association for Disappeared People’s Families in Mesopotamia (MEYADER), Federation of Association for Solidarity with Families of Prisoners, Municipality Workers’ Trade Union, Trade Union for the Workers of Religious Affairs Department (DİVES), the Women’s Centre (KAMER), Kardelen Women’s House and the Dicle-Fırat Culture Centre.
So now I want to ask a question. Has anyone seen the film ‘Network’ from 1976? I saw it a few years ago and then recently saw a clip of the now iconic scene in which the main protagonist Howard Beale (played by the late, great Peter Finch) galvanises the nation with his impassioned diatribe, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ and persuades Americans to shout out their windows late one night. They are fed up with the status quo and vent their anger by shouting into the streets.
This is a part of Beale’s rant:
All I know is first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a human being, Goddamnit! My life has value!’ I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’
This whole ‘mad as hell’ thing has been stuck in my head and resurfaces when I start thinking of the KCK trial and all the linguistic injustices the Kurds have suffered. Then I started imagining the scene from Network, but transplanted to another locale…somewhere perhaps where lots of people speak an ‘unknown’ language, for example.
Isn’t it time to galvanise against the shockingly absurd ban on the Kurdish language? Isn’t it time to throw your window open and yell at the top of your voice: Ez bi hêrs im wekî pêta agirî û ez nema xwe radigrim!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear these shouts in Kurdish from rooftops and windows in Amed or Elih or Şirnex or Wan or Mêrdîn or wherever? Someone gets fined for using the letter ‘Q’, just shout: Ez bi hêrs im wekî pêta agirî û ez nema xwe radigrim! Someone calls Kurdish an unknown language, just shout: Ez bi hêrs im wekî pêta agirî û ez nema xwe radigrim!
When Leyla Zana spoke Kurdish in parliament all those years ago, or when Ahmet Türk spoke Kurdish in the Turkish parliament last year to show the meaninglessness and unfairness of language bans, they were acts of civil disobedience that have paved the way for what is happening today. Osman Baydemir has been using Kurdish in the municipality’s promotional posters and in many of his talks. Such direct and public use of Kurdish is important for him, and an act of civil disobedience. Baydemir says it’s a way of signalling the failure of the state’s effort to destroy Kurdish culture. Investigations have been opened against him for printing invitations to events in Kurdish and for using the letter ‘W’ in a Newroz card. Ez bi hêrs im wekî pêta agirî û ez nema xwe radigrim!
Now is the time to read, speak, write (or shout!) in Kurdish everywhere: Non-violent acts of linguistic disobedience. Embrace the campaign. Open your mouth and shout: ‘Ez bi hêrs im wekî pêta agirî û ez nema xwe radigrim!’ Or maybe put it on a t-shirt.