RIGHTS > Laz community opens institute to save culture

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey’s Laz community is launching an institute to protect its culture and Lazuri language. They also mulls opening a private Laz school as well

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A group of protesters rally in Istanbul against the problems the Circassian people are facing across the world in this file photo. Hürriyet Daily News photo

A group of protesters rally in Istanbul against the problems the Circassian people are facing across the world in this file photo. Hürriyet Daily News photo

Vercihan Ziflioğlu Vercihan Ziflioğlu vercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr

Turkey’s Laz community is establishing an institute in Istanbul to protect its culture and Lazuri language. 

The institute will be opened in the Kadıköy district of Istanbul on Nov. 23 under the leadership of politician and academic Prof. Mehmet Bekaroğlu. 

In 2010, the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger declares Lazuri as a language. 
He said that even though he is the founding president, in reality late singer Kazım Koyuncu, who died of lung cancer at the age of 34 in 2005, is a founder of the institute. The artist, who was the leader of Turkey’s first ever Lazuri rock band Zuğaşi Berepe, took “the first step” for them, Bekaroğlu said. 

Bekaroğlu insisted they are not aiming at nationalism; they are just trying to protect their language and culture. He also added there is a lack of knowledge in society on Laz culture, and many people think the Laz people are just Black Sea Region residents, “speaking Turkish with a very bad accent.”
“This [perception] is totally meaningless, Laz people have centuries old culture and language,” he said.

Syllabus prepared

The issue of teaching in the mother tongue is a hot subject in the country, but Bekaroğlu said the Education Ministry has said they did not have teachers who can teach Lazuri.

“This year we were preparing a syllabus, we succeeded in opening classes in Istanbul, as well as in the Black Sea region in Artvin’s Fındıklı and Arhavi districts, where 130 students are taking Lazuri classes,” he said. “We are planning to open a private Laz school as well.” 

Most of the Laz community is populated in the Black Sea region, but there is a community in Istanbul. Bekaroğlu said the perception of the nation-state created assimilation, but in recent years, Turkey has made an improvement on the issue. 

“Turkey will be a richer country with its ethnic languages and will be multilingual,” Bekaroğlu said. 

“How will your Institute work? What will the agenda be?” asked the Daily News. Bekaroğlu responded, “We will collect all cultural activities under one umbrella. We will work on the Lazuri language and will be preparing school books. We are planning to contact universities to educate Laz teachers… Besides, we would like to organize a Lazuri Congress. The Latin alphabet is not enough, we need two alphabets. Also, we are planning to contact Ankara for a Lazuri TV station.”


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Notice on comments

Çılgın Kanarya

11/27/2013 12:42:36 AM

MARA, as you know, your second sentence accounts for your first one :)

mara mcglothin

11/26/2013 6:50:37 PM

CILGIN My Laz relatives and their daughters were all in Gezi with you. Not pro AKP OR rabid Nationalists, BUT people who live in Paris, and LA part time and no what democracy looks like.

Dayna Lewis

11/25/2013 12:13:19 AM

@Çılgın....yes I should have included the word opposed and also meant to write ''residents'' and not residence My head seem to go one way and my fingers another :-)) I must admit that it seems you have had more contact with the Black Sea area than I have so I concede.

Çılgın Kanarya

11/22/2013 9:40:24 PM

And before anyone asks, yes I have been to both Trabzon (3 times) and Rize (once). By the way Dayna, by writing "they are strongly to AKP", although not grammatically correct, this still appears that you were endorsing my views while simultaneously challenging them, lol. Perhaps you neglected to include the word "opposed"? :)

Çılgın Kanarya

11/22/2013 9:36:05 PM

DAYNA, the biggest city of the Laz region is Rize, from where the parents of RTE hail, & this a conservative, pro-AKP stronghold. Trabzon, which is not strictly part of the said region, but is a bigger city & within an hour's drive, also contains many Laz who are pro-AKP. The ones who aren't in this category are usually racist, MHP loyalists, particularly in Trabzon. The 'Laz' people I know here in İstanbul also tend to be religiously & / or nationalistically conservative. Just my observations.

Dayna Lewis

11/22/2013 2:56:01 PM

Hey Çılgın, back off a little and don't be so quick to stereotype people. I admit I don't know a lot of Laz but the ones I do know are not just residence of the Black Sea area they are Lazuri and they are strongly to AKP. Everyone living in the Black Sea area are not Lazuri.

Ozan Leman

11/21/2013 11:51:15 PM

@Murat When you're people are truly indigenous to a territory you don't need to kill other people for the reason that you think you are more indigenous than them and thus have more rights to the territory. We are mot a violent people and considering the onslaught of Greek colonization didn't wipe us out completely nothing else can.


11/21/2013 10:11:51 PM

Why are they not roaming the mountains with AK-47s and killing women and children?

Çılgın Kanarya

11/21/2013 9:35:51 PM

"Also, we are planning to contact Ankara for a Lazuri TV station", says Bekaroǧlu. I can imagine that this request will be readily accepted, considering that most of the inhabitants of the Laz community are ardent AKP sycophants. Yet another yandaş channel pumping out pro-AKP propaganda 24/7 in the run up to the elections would be ideal for them. And furthermore, in another language! By the way, can anyone translate this question into Lazuri for me: "Which club won the 2011 Turkish Süper Lig?".

Nageyec Conduz

11/21/2013 2:32:35 PM

Turkey under went visible change which obviously all communities such as Lazuris had tapped into and will hopefully continue to bear fruits.
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