Deputy parliamentary speaker’s request for translation from Kurdish at General Assembly angers MHP

Deputy parliamentary speaker’s request for translation from Kurdish at General Assembly angers MHP

Deputy parliamentary speaker’s request for translation from Kurdish at General Assembly angers MHP

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More tension has arisen in parliament after Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Ayşenur Bahçekapılı requested a translation of statements by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Kurdish to be translated into Turkish for the official stenograph.

On the evening of Feb. 21, lawmakers from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), after taking the rostrum to make statements on several motions, concluded their statement by expressing gratitude to the General Assembly in Kurdish on the occasion of the Feb. 21 International Mother Tongue Day.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Ayşenur Bahçekapılı, who was administrating the session, asked the HDP deputies to translate their statements in Kurdish into Turkish so that their remarks could be recorded accurately by the stenographs. Each HDP deputy then translated what they said in Kurdish into Turkish.
Sparking reaction from deputies of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the move prompted a procedural debate on the incident.

“We have taken our oaths to represent the Turkish nation as lawmakers of the TBMM [the Grand National Assembly of Turkey]. You, as the speaker, representing the TBMM,” MHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Yusuf Halaçoğlu said, addressing Bahçekapılı.

“You cannot have the spoken language retranslated. According to the law, in this parliament, it is not possible to use other languages than Turkish. People may talk in their mother tongue, but not at the TBMM. This doesn’t have anything to do with freedom. It has to do with the state governed by the rule of law and the Constitution,” Halaçoğlu said.

Another MHP deputy, Faruk Bal, asked Bahçekapılı to remove the Kurdish remarks from the records, but was strictly rejected by Bahçekapılı.

When Bal argued that Bahçekapılı violated the Constitution, she responded as saying: “I am not violating the Constitution. Turkey’s official language is Turkish. In this country, Kurdish songs are played and there are Kurdish television programs. This is a place where there is freedom, not bans. This is not a prohibitive place.”

As Bahçekapılı was ending the procedural debate, Bal continued voicing his objections and led the deputy parliamentary speaker to express her sadness over spending almost half-an-hour because a few deputies spoke Kurdish.

“We believe in fraternity with all people. Long live the fraternity of the Turkish and Kurdish peoples,” Bahçekapılı said.

Her remarks, reminiscent of slogans of left-wing groups, found applause from the General Assembly, and were followed by a remission at parliament.

International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999.

Bahçekapılı’s embrace of multilingualism came only a day after a senior executive of the HDP stated that a fresh debate about the controversial security bill – which was seasoned with a fistfight in parliament – has begun hampering efforts to conclude the peace process.

The lifting of restrictions on Kurdish-language education in state schools is one of the key steps that the HDP says should be taken in order to be able to move forward along the stalled peace process aimed at ending the three-decade-long conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The HDP has been aiding the talks between government officials, jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and the PKK headquarters in the Kandil Mountains of Iraq since late 2012.