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MEHMET ALİ BİRAND > Elective Kurdish course is a historic step

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Not long ago, especially in the 1980s and ‘90s, there was a hunt in the streets for Kurdish speakers. Writing Kurdish on walls was the biggest offense of all. In courts, those who could not speak Turkish were not able to defend themselves. There was a war of languages. It was one of the strictest denial politics of the Sept. 12 regime.

Let alone speak it, even those who listened to Kurdish music were pursued by the police and once caught, jailed. I can never forget: I once took a taxi in the southeast city of Diyarbakır. The driver put a music cassette and ejected it with the first syllables. It was Kurdish. He turned to me and started begging, “Sir, I made a mistake. Please don’t tell the police…” I felt so bad. Banning a person’s language was beyond comprehension.

Look at the stage we have reached today. When viewed from this angle, acknowledging Kurdish as an elective course, no matter how you look at it, is a historic step.

It is a sign that the former denial politics have been totally left behind.

Now, there will be reactions. This step would not be adequate for some.

Especially the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party have already revealed their stances. They have a very fierce reaction against the offer of an elective course as they expected instruction in one’s mother tongue. They cannot accept the mother tongue of a society being treated like learning French or English. They say they want to learn both history and mathematics in their own language.

It is possible to understand this reaction. Because, according to their own politics, mother tongue is an indispensable factor. They would want to raise the level of negotiation as high as possible. In talks with Ankara, they would not easily let go of the mother tongue “card.”

Ankara is taking steps to solve the Kurdish issue. It wants to meet the demands of a segment of the region’s population.

The attitude of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on the issue of language also favors the elective option. If real cooperation can be formed at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and CHP front, then they will have an especially strong hand.

You may say “Good but not adequate.” However, when you come to think of the dimensions of this development, you cannot deny the vital significance the decision carries.

Turkey, finally, has demonstrated its intention, that it really does consider its citizens of Kurdish origin one of them. There are still many steps to be taken, nonetheless, we have entered a process that will not be easy to turn back from.

Not enough teachers
We speak of it as if it were a very easy transition. First things first, let alone instruction in mother tongue, there are not even enough teachers to give the now-debated elective Kurdish course. Since you cannot teach a course without teachers, first of all, teachers should be trained.

Another aspect to be considered is not to look down on an elective language. According to the BDP, an elective language is like tipping.

I don’t think so. Especially in the southeast, if it becomes popular – though there are doubts about this – then Kurdish will become a language that the young generations will not forget. It will find its place in society. When another step is taken in the future, it can be transformed into a more widespread education.

June/14/2012

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