On Turkish President Abdullah Gül’s flight to the city of Diyarbakır, in response to a question as to whether he would say anything in Kurdish during his official visit to the city, Gül said, ‘How can I say anything in Kurdish? I don’t speak Kurdish.’
Gül was met at the airport by Mayor Osman Baydemir and later paid a visit to the mayor’s office, where Baydemir presented the president with a Kurdish-Turkish dictionary. Said Gül upon receiving the gift: ‘I will gladly accept this dictionary. Certainly, this is a sociological reality of this area.’ (Bu da tabi buranın bir sosyolojik gerçeğidir).
This is a sociological reality of this area? What a strange thing to say. What did he even mean by that? Imagine if he had said something like: ‘Mr Mayor, when I was on the plane coming to Diyarbakır I said I don’t speak Kurdish. Thank you for the gift of this dictionary. On my way back to Ankara I will use it to learn a few words of Kurdish.’ That would have made a much better impression.
But instead the president went on to say, ‘Turkish is and will be the official language of the Republic of Turkey. Also, Turkish is the language of the state and public institutions. It is our common language. On the other hand, it is a fact that there are citizens speaking different languages among Turkish people. There are people speaking Kurdish, Arabic and the other languages. They all belong to us.’
Yet Hürriyet’s headline read: President embraces use of Kurdish. This is an embrace of Kurdish? It’s more like: President dismisses importance of Kurdish. In this patronising ‘embrace’ of the Kurdish language he said, in effect, that millions of Kurdish speakers deserve no more respect or attention than anyone else who speaks a different language.
Gül was parroting the outcome of the National Security Council’s (MGK) meeting the day before. The MGK responded to Kurdish demands bluntly on Wednesday, saying the country was indivisible and that no attempt at challenging the official Turkish language would be accepted. The statement was released after a 5-hour meeting headed by Gül at the presidential palace. The MGK develops national security policy and has been in place since the military coup of 1960.
‘We cannot allow any attempt to deny that the official language of the Turkish Republic, which symbolises common grounds such as one flag, one nation and one land is Turkish,’ said the website of the presidential palace, citing the MGK’s statement.
During a speech at a meeting at the municipality building, Baydemir said that peace can only be reached through dialogue and consensus. He added that the ‘lack of tolerance toward demands and suggestions by Kurdish politicians on the mother-tongue and democratic autonomy is a source of concern.’
BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş issued a strong reaction to the MGK communiqué. ‘I call on the MGK members: Kurds will not accept the division of this country even though you attempt to do so. I call on the president: How will you protect the cultures you call [Turkey’s] richness? As the head of the nation you have to put [forth] the formula.’
The language debate will certainly be one of the major issues and sources of contention for 2011. Embrace the New Year. Sersala we pîroz be!
Turkey rejects use of Kurdish in official business. Today’s Zaman, 30 December 2010.
President embraces use of Kurdish, reaffirms Turkish as official language. Hürriyet Daily News, 30 December 2010.
Abdullah Gul: Zimanê resmî tirkî ye. AKNews, 30 December 2010.
Turkish security board reaffirms unity amid autonomy debate. Hürriyet Daily News, 30 December 2010.