Tens of thousands of Kurds held a huge demonstration to mark UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day in Diyarbakır. Kurds also demonstrated in other cities across the region including Hakkari and Van. Marches were held in Europe as well.
Taking the lead in yesterday’s demonstration was the organisation Tevgera Ziman û Perwerdahiya Kurdî (TZPKurdî, Kurdish Language and Education Movement in English). The head of the BDP’s (Democratic Society Party) local organisation M. Ali Aydın, KURDİ-DER’s director Burhan Zorooğlu and BDP deputy Hamit Geylani were the key speakers and addressed the placard-carrying crowd of thousands.
Several months ago, TZPKurdî began a campaign called ‘Read, Speak, Write in Kurdish Everywhere’, launched against the prohibition of the Kurdish language in certain spheres in Turkey.
TZPKurdî has suggested three measures to resist the repression of Kurdish in Turkey: 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.
Dressed in Kurdish national clothes Kurdish women also participated in the demonstration and called on the Turkish government to stop all restrictions on the use of Kurdish language. Demonstrators held banners reading ‘without mother language there is no life.’
KURDİ-DER’s Rifat Öztürk read the joint statement of the NGOs and institutions supporting the demonstration.
Öztürk said there is an ongoing denial of Kurdish language since the creation of Turkish Republic about 80 years ago. He criticised Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s approach to the Kurdish question and his defence of the motto of the Turkish state: ‘One Language, One Nation.’
He mentioned Erdoğan’s statement about cultural rights of Turkish immigrants in Germany where he labelled assimilation a ‘crime against humanity’ and called on the Turkish government to recognise the linguistic rights of Kurdish people in Turkey.
Öztürk also called on the Turkish courts to recognise the rights of Kurdish politicians whose requests to defend themselves in Kurdish have been routinely denied. When spoken in court, Kurdish is often referred to by the presiding judges as an ‘unknown’ language.
‘Like all the other nations and communities mother language is sacred and one of the basic values of the society for the Kurdish people,’ Öztürk said.
BDP deputy Hamit Geylani also made a speech saying that the trial of Kurdish politicians in Diyarbakır is a trial where the Kurdish language is being tried. ‘There will be no freedom until or language is free,’ he said, and added that ‘the struggle of Kurdish people for their language will go on.’
Amnesty International (AI) has now recognised Kurdish and will began to use it on its website. AI signed a protocol with the KURDİ-DER Batman (Elîh) branch in order to translate all written documents into Kurdish for one year.
In February 2009, Ahmet Türk, then head of the now defunct DTP, spoke Kurdish in the Turkish parliament to honour International Mother Language Day. TRT quickly cut the live broadcast.
To learn more about the issue of mother-tongue education in Kurdish, read Kurdistan Commentary’s essay on the subject here:
All photos below of the demonstrations are from the website Yüksekova Haber.
Tens of thousands marked International Mother Language Day. Firat News Agency, 21 February 2011.
Kurdish people in Europe step up Mother Language Campaign. Firat News Agency, 21 February 2011.
Who’s mad as hell? Anyone? Kurdistan Commentary, 16 November 2010.
DTP Leader speaks Kurdish in Parliament. Kurdistan Commentary, 24 February 2009.