Kurds on Kurdish courses

Kurdish intellectuals said it was a positive development that İSMEK was engaged in such an initiative but this could not meet the demands of Kurds for the Kurdish language

Ferhat Yaşar

Before the March 31 local elections, opening Kurdish language courses was among the promises of the metropolitan mayoral candidates. After opposition candidate, Republican People's Party's (CHP), Ekrem İmamoğlu won the elections, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recently attended a program, meeting with graduates of Kurdish Language and Literature Departments. In this meeting Kılıçdaroğlu said Kurdish courses will be opened at İSMEK, the Art and Vocational Training courses of Istanbul Municipality, and that Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality would provide Kurdish services for those who only speak Kurdish.

We asked the opinion of Eyüp Subaşı, one of the managers of Istanbul Kurdish Studies Association who said the utmost demand of Kurds was to receive education in their mother tongue and that Kurdish language should be officially included in schools. "It is a positive development that İSMEK is engaged in such an initiative but this cannot meet the demands of Kurds for the Kurdish language. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Kurds were equal citizens of Turkey. If they are sincere in this matter, then services should be in Kurdish also because in Istanbul there is a Kurdish population of nearly 6 million. Kindergartens could be opened or those opening Kurdish Kindergartens can be supported. Only through this, equality can be attained. It is not an issue that can be solved by opening a couple of courses... It is difficult to make an estimate how much demand there would be for Kurdish courses at İSMEK. The same institution provides Turkish courses also but only foreigners attend and learn Turkish. When Kurdish courses are opened, we do not know whether or not Kurdish people would attend."

Kurdish writer and linguist Zana Farqini said, before anything else, it was an important step that these promises were kept. Farqini said, "Multi-language services were first introduced by Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) local governments. If talk is about citizenship and brotherhood, this right should be given as soon as possible. At least municipalities should open Kurdish language teaching courses. It would be an important step in terms of normalization. Up to date, these kind of steps were always taken by Kurdish political movements and institutions. For CHP municipalities to launch a similar initiative, it would be a positive step in terms of breaking down the prejudices."

Farqini said Kurdish language was not independent from the Kurdish issue. "The Kurdish language was criminalized before and it was forbidden to speak it. Speaking Kurdish carried risks of being arrested, killed or lynched. At certain locations, similar situations are still experienced. We are hearing of incidents. Also, we know what happens to people for speaking Kurdish at construction sites and listening to Kurdish songs in parks. We all know the attack to a father and son at northwestern province of Sakarya because they were speaking Kurdish."

Farqini said it would be an important step that a party like the CHP or a municipality of CHP takes these kinds of steps because it would contribute to social peace and the breaking of prejudices. Features like language-identity and language-culture should not be evaluated separately. In this framework, certain issues should be handled together; thus education in mother tongue is the most important right, which should not be bypassed.