Kurdish, Lazuri speeches silenced in Turkish Parliament on Mother Language Day

Turkey’s Parliamentary deputy speaker Celal Adan of the far-right nationalist MHP has silenced various deputies’ microphones as they spoke in their native Kurdish and Lazuri in celebration of International Mother Language Day.

CHP deputy Türkan Elçi gives a speech about Kurdish before being cut off

Duvar English

Deputy speaker of the Turkish Parliament, Celal Adan of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) blocked multiple deputy’s speeches by silencing their microphones when they spoke in their native languages for the Feb. 21 International Mother Language Day. The deputies left the stand unable to finish their speeches.

Türkan Elçi of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) took the stand and began her speech in Turkish. Her microphone was muted in the middle of the speech, as she said “Çavayî başî” (How are you?) in Kurdish. 

Elçi later shared the full text of her speech on X along with a note that read, “As an author and poet that writes in Turkish, I consider the intolerance shown to a phrase from my mother language Turkey’s shame.”

Lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party were also silenced at the stand. Deputy Beritan Güneş Altın from the southeastern Mardin province and Burcugül Çubuk from the Aegean İzmir province were cut off by the deputy speaker. 

Çubuk later shared on social media that she spoke in Uzbek, a dialect of Turkish to figure out “whether the deputy speaker understood when we spoke in Turkish.” 

Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Adan reminded that all deputies were required to speak Turkish at the stand as per the constitution, otherwise their microphones would be cut off.

DEM Party deputy chairman Sezai Temelli called the microphone turn-off a violation of the right to speech. 

Another silenced deputy was CHP’s deputy from the Black Sea Rize province Tahsin Ocaklı. Ocaklı said in his speech at the General Assembly that he wanted to include some Lazuri, spoken by around 20,000 people in the southeastern shore of the Black Sea.

Ocaklı said that he wished the deputy speaker would not cut him off, to which Adan replied, “Continue in Turkish.” 

“My mother is waiting in front of the television for me to say something in Lazuri. And you will put democracy to shame as you mute this microphone,” continued Ocaklı.  

His microphone was indeed muted on his first word in the Laz language. The Parliament livestream cut the camera as the sound went off. Ocaklı completed his speech without the help of the microphone. 

Ocaklı took to social media to voice his complaint. “My speech was cut off in the Parliament today. I was going to wish for happiness and kindness to the world in Lazuri,” wrote the deputy. 

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Ayşe Böhürler weighed in on the mother language discussions through her social media post. She held that people were free to speak in their native languages at home, but a single official language was necessary for a united Turkey.

“We cannot tell people what language to use in their homes. However, we will not give a platform to those meddlers who claim the people and the government can persist without our common official language, who wish to paralyze our state,” she asserted, before celebrating Mother Language Day. 

The Turkish parliamentary administration in 2021 set up a digital system in the General Assembly Hall that enables simultaneous translation of speeches and debates by lawmakers.

Despite providing translation to the languages of French, Russian, English, and Arabic, the system excludes the Kurdish language, which is the second most spoken language in Turkey with around eight million speakers. 

Many lawmakers from pro-Kurdish parties have been penalized or censored for speaking Kurdish in Parliament.