Elective Kurdish classes stir new debate on substructure
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey’s first undergraduate Kurdish program was started in 2011 in the southeastern province Mardin’s Artuklu University and the first Kurdish teachers will graduate in 2015.
Following the introduction of Kurdish elective lessons in public schools next academic year by the Turkish government, educators have raised questions regarding the lack of teaching staff and school books.
Learning one’s mother tongue is every individual’s right and cannot be made optional, said Altan Açıkdilli, founder of the Anatolia Culture and Research Association (AKADER) which has been conducting Kurdish, Laz and Zaza language courses for the last two years.
“Do we learn Turkish in elective courses? Then why do we learn other [national] mother tongues at the school in elective courses,” said Açıkdilli.
“However, a lack of language teachers [and] grammar and practice books is another problem that should be discussed,” he said.
Anthropologist Özdoğan Boz a member of the Circassians Association also offered his support to the elective courses but added that the absence of teaching materials and teachers was a problem.
“We can transfer teachers from Caucuses but the legal barriers of Turkey will stop us without a doubt. I do not know what kind of attitude will be maintained but we also will demand the right to have elective classes.”Meanwhile, Chairman of the Laz Cultural Association, lawyer Memedali Barış Beşli, said that when the mother tongue issue comes to the table only Kurds are remembered. “It is not fair to ignore the other communities while trying to build a peace with Kurds,” Beşli said.
He said the Laz, an ethnic group native to the Black Sea coastal regions of Turkey, demand education in their mother tongue as well. “We can practice on the Laz language books which were published during the rule of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Mesopotamia Culture and Solidarity Association (MEZODER) head Turgut Alaca said the same step was expected for 20, 000 Syriacs living in Turkey.
“Families in southeast Turkey teach the Syriac language to their kids in their houses, but when children start school they forget their mother tongue.” Alaca said.
New departments in universities could be established to support the government’s new language courses, Gökhan Çetinsaya, the President of the Higher Education Council of Turkey (YÖK) said. Çetinsaya also said a quota of nearly 10,000 university students was allocated for language teaching.
Meanwhile, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş said they wanted Turkish citizens to learn Kurdish.
“The Kurdish elective classes are significant in that they psychologically cross a barrier [stemming from prohibition]. But we also want those who live in the western parts of Turkey to learn Kurdish,” he said.