Turkish PM unveils Kurdish courses at schools
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily NewsThe Turkish government will introduce Kurdish elective lessons in public schools in the next education year, the prime minister announced yesterday in a move seen as part of the ruling party’s effort to find a solution to the Kurdish question.
“Kurdish will be learned and taught as an elective lesson if there is a sufficient number of students [demanding it]. This is a historic step,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in his weekly address to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) group in Parliament.
The government’s move constitutes a first in Turkey’s history as the country’s official language is Turkish and no any other ethnic language has been introduced to public schools.
“I kindly request my citizens of Kurdish descent [to heed this]: Please follow closely the reactions of other parties on this very historical step of the [AKP],” Erdoğan said, criticizing the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) for trying to cast a shadow on the government’s moves. “While we are trying to develop the rights of our citizens of Kurdish descent, they are pelting the government instead of supporting it.”
In power since late 2002, the AKP has over the years attempted to take a number of steps toward meeting Kurdish demands, including establishing a state Kurdish broadcaster and allowing Kurdish to be taught in private courses and used during election campaigns.
The moves fall short, however, according to the BDP, which continues to press for the recognition of Kurds as co-founders of the Turkish Republic and for the addition of Kurdish as an official language in the country.
“There is nothing as despotic as teaching a mother tongue as an elective course,” Gültan Kışanak, co-chairperson of the BDP, said in her group meeting yesterday.
“How can you conduct such cruelty toward Kurds? In addition, it will [only] be offered after fourth grade; meaning, ‘First be assimilated [as a Turk] and then learn your mother tongue as an elective course,” she said, comparing the plan to Germany’s practices toward Turks. “When Erdoğan was in Germany he was saying, ‘Assimilation is a crime against humanity.’ Yes, he is right, but now he is committing the same crime.”
More religious courses
The introduction of Kurdish elective courses is part of a new education reform known as the “4+4+4 system,” which is paving the way for more students to have the option of choosing imam-hatip schools (religious vocational schools) and introducing the Quran and the life of the Prophet as elective courses in normal schools.
Erdoğan also said yesterday that another elective course would be offered for students who want to learn more about divine religions. “Members of different religions, for example, Christians and Jews, will be able to learn [about] their religions if they ask for it.”
A course on human rights, democracy and citizenship will be compulsory in the fourth grade, Erdoğan said.