Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My English, the Kurds’ Turkish and the right to language


I learned English on my own. When you learn a language after a certain age, you never become bilingual. The language you learn remains a foreign language to you. And you always remain a student.

If you have to use a second language for professional purposes, as I do, it creates a disadvantage, a difficulty that you have to cope with.
This difficulty, however, turned into an advantage for me in ways that I had never imagined before. The first one is with writing. Since 2007 I have been writing columns in English, and I learned to write in very plain language. I started to use stories and metaphors to explain my point rather than playing with words that I could only do in Turkish. I believe this “disadvantage” helped me a lot to become a better writer in my own language, too.

The second advantage of this “disadvantage” was that it helped me to develop empathy for the Kurds in Turkey. While I was in the UK I understood how it was to feel stupid when I failed to understand the complete meaning of jokes. Then I remembered how our Kurdish friends fell silent when we were joking cheerfully with Turkish friends at university. The possibility never occurred to me that they may have not understood our jokes. Their accent and many other things of course became more endearing to me when I had the same “imperfections” in another language.

Turkish is a “foreign language” for many Kurds in Turkey. I even heard from my educated friends that they only started to learn Turkish when they first started school. There is no “preparatory” class or anything like that of course. They learn Turkish while they learn other things.

Up until very recently, Kurdish had been forbidden in all forms of public life in Turkey. Even its very existence was denied. Kurdish, according to official explanation, was just a different dialect of Turkish. Proponents of this “narrative,” of course, also came up with many stupid stories to support this illogical theory. The most famous one is about the “mountain Turks” who walk on snow, and this sound echoed when they walk: “kart-kurt,” which is the source of the name Kurd and the Kurdish language, according to this “mountain Turk” theory.

Turkish and Kurdish may be as close to each other as English and Chinese. They come from completely different language families, and, except for some Persian and Arabic words that penetrated both languages, they have nothing in common.

So, Kurds not only had to learn and speak Turkish, but they also could not speak their own language. Speaking in Kurdish in public was not allowed. It was not possible to publish anything in Kurdish. Kurds were forced to forget their mother tongue. There were no Kurds, nor Kurdish, in Turkey.

Kurdish television and courses

With the coming of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to power and as a result of enacting EU harmonization laws, this total denial has been put aside. And some things that we had never imagined before happened in Turkey. Now we have a state-sponsored Kurdish TV channel, TRT 6, private Kurdish courses are allowed, Kurdish publications have been put into circulation and so on.

In today’s Turkey, no one advocates this “mountain Turk” theory anymore. However, bans and limitations on the Kurdish language continue. Private Kurdish courses are allowed but there are no Kurdish lessons in schools. State television broadcasts in Kurdish but private channels are not allowed to do that. Kurdish cannot be used in official communication or services.

Language rights are the key

We are now at a turning point in solving the Kurdish question; official and unofficial talks and communication continue between the government and Kurdish leaders. Obviously the official usage of Kurdish and education in the mother tongue are and will be key issues in these “negotiations” and in a possible reconciliation.

If Turks and Kurds continue to live together, this will happen on the basis of equal citizenship, not on denial and repression anymore. Recognition and respect for identity and the cultural rights of the Kurds is the only way to solve the Kurdish question.

Language is a fundamental right. Solving the Kurdish problem lies in the full recognition of this right of the Kurds. I hope the government will take other bold steps to fully recognize this right, which holds the key to a democratic and peaceful Turkey.

29 September 2010, Wednesday

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Top Turkish education board approves Kurdish-language program

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Denmark plans terrorism charge against Kurdish TV

COPENHAGEN | Wed Sep 1, 2010 12:07am IST

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The Danish government said on Tuesday it backed the filing of terrorism-related charges against two Denmark-based companies behind a Kurdish television station that prosecutors accuse of promoting the PKK militant group.

Danish Justice Minister Lars Barfoed said in a statement that he supported the prosecutors' request to bring charges against the backers of Roj-TV for "promoting the activities of a terror organisation".

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), mainly based in northern Iraq, took up arms against Turkey in 1984 with the aim of creating a separate Kurdish homeland. It is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Denmark's public prosecutors' office said in a separate statement that charges would be brought against the Denmark-based companies Roj-TV A/S and Mesopotamia Broadcast A/S METV under section 114 of the Danish Criminal Code.

That section makes it a criminal offence to promote the activities of an individual, group or association that commits or intends to commit acts of terrorism, the prosecutors said.

Officials at the companies could not be reached immediately for comment.

"It is the opinion of the Prosecution Service that...a number of the TV programmes and features broadcast on Roj-TV must be regarded as having the characteristics of propaganda in support of the PKK, and that this propaganda serves to promote PKK's activities," the prosecutors said.

Prosecutors will also seek to have Roj-TV's Danish broadcasting licence suspended, they said. The station is available by satellite in Turkey and various European and Middle Eastern countries.

The case will be heard by the Copenhagen City Court, but a trial date has not yet been set, the prosecutors said.

(Reporting by John Acher, editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Denmark alleges Kurdish TV station promoted terror

By JAN M. OLSEN (AP) – 10 hours ago

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Kurdish-language TV station with a Danish broadcasting license has been charged with promoting a group linked to terrorism, Danish prosecutors said Tuesday.

Top prosecutor Joergen Steen Soerensen said that Roj-TV is helping promote the PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

PKK rebels have been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984. Turkey accuses Roj-TV of being a mouthpiece for the PKK.

According to Soerensen, Roj-TV has "persistently" aired shows with interviews of PKK members and supporters but also about skirmishes between Kurds and Turkish forces. The station's content was "aimed at promoting and supporting the activities of the terrorist organization PKK" and its political wing, Kongra-Gel, the prosecutor said.

The programs "must be regarded as having the characteristics of propaganda in support of PKK," Soerensen said. The charges came after "extremely comprehensive investigations" of the connections between Roj-TV and PKK, he added.

The charges also include Mesopotamia Broadcast A/S METV, a company behind Roj-TV.

Roj-TV has a Danish broadcasting license but has no studios in Denmark. Calls to the station were not answered, but Roj-TV officials have previously denied terror links.

In Turkey, the Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision. "We expect that these media organizations that support terrorism and encourage the use of violence will get the punishment they deserve at the end of the legal process," it said in a statement.

Under Denmark's anti-terror law, a person can face prison for up to 10 years for supporting a terrorist organization.

Justice Minister Lars Barfoed said it now was up to a court of law to consider Roj-TV's activities.

No date has been set for the trial, which will take place at Copenhagen City Court.

Prosecutors also said they would ask the Danish Radio and Television Board to revoke the station's license, which was issued over six years ago, based on criminal violations.

Danish-Turkish relations have long been strained over Kurdish groups based in Denmark.

In 1995, a political arm of the PKK opened its fourth European office in Copenhagen, sparking protests from the Turkish Embassy. The office later closed because of a lack of funding.

In 2000, Turkey protested that a Kurdish-language satellite TV station, Mesopotamia TV, was allowed to broadcast from Denmark to Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa.

And in 2005, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan boycotted a news conference in Copenhagen to protest the presence of Roj-TV journalists.

Associated Press writer Susan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Two Kurdish Newspapers Banned, Güney Magazine Copies Seized

The publication of the Kurdish newspapers Azadiya Welat and Rojev was suspended for one month because of alleged "propaganda for a terror organization". Copies of the three-monthly Güney magazine were confiscated for the same reason.

Erol ÖNDEROĞLU Mersin - Istanbul - BİA News Center31 August 2010, Tuesday The Kurdish newspapers Azadiya Welat and Rojev and the left-wing Güney Magazine were banned under allegations of "spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization". The publication of both newspapers was suspended for a month, the copies of the Güney magazine were confiscated.

The Rojev newspaper had just resumed publishing after a long break on 24 August before the Istanbul 11th High Criminal Court decided for the one-month publication ban.

The decision is based on the 36th issue of the Kurdish paper published on 28 August which featured a picture of Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and a flag of the organization on the front page. Additionally, a chart depicting Öcalan and other members of the militant organization published on page eight of the same issue was given as a reason for the ban.

On 21 August, the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court suspended the publication of the Azadiya Welat newspaper, the only nation-wide Kurdish daily published in Turkey, on the grounds of "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization" and "praising criminals". Reason for the decision is the issue published on the very same day.

The paper's responsible editor-in-chief, M. Nedim Karadeniz, said that the newspaper "faced unlawful bans" for eight issues within the past four years the daily was published. He announced that only in 2010, the daily was closed down three times already.

"None of these suspension punishments were in line with universal law. As a matter of fact, Turkey was convicted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in similar cases related to newspapers stemming from the tradition of the Free Press. Imagine a judiciary system where all the news and articles in the current issue of a twelve-page newspaper are considered a crime".

The decision is based on the Anti Terror Law which was not considered as opposing the Constitution by the Constitutional Court but was the reason for convictions at the ECHR. While the seizure was decided according to Article 25/2 of the Press Law (Confiscation and Prohibition of Distribution and Sale), the publication ban was based on Article 6/last paragraph (Disclosure and Publication) of the TMY.

Former Azadiya Welat chief editors Vedat Kurşun and Ozan Kılıç and Hawar newspaper official Bedri Adanır are still in prison.

Confiscation of Güney magazine
The issue of the first quarter of 2010 of the three-monthly Güney magazine was confiscated upon a decision of the Mersin 2nd Magistrate Criminal Court. However, the article does not mention the name of any illegal organization.

The police seized the copies on 26 August from the printing house of the magazine in Mersin (eastern Mediterranean coast), informing the staff about the confiscation decision. The police delivered a written notice about the court decision to the magazine's central office in the Esenyurt district of Istanbul.

The article entitled "Children Rights of (Kurdish) children in the dungeon" written by Ali Dağdeviren was given as the reason for the seizure. However, the article does not mention the name of any organization. The writing criticized the "treatment of thousands of Kurdish children" despite the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child both singed by the Turkish government.

A statement the magazine announced, "This mentality which fills prisons with thousands of children could not tolerate an article criticizing this situation". (EÖ/VK)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


"United we Stand," a visual reconstruction of the Greater Kurdistan by a poster, Diri Shaswari, on the portal Roj Bash Kurdistan: There is no Norther Iraq.