Turkey’s opposition Green Left Party (YSP) Şanlıurfa Lawmaker Ömer Öcalan held a press conference in Kurdish language in the National Assembly on Oct. 2, the second day of the new legislative year.
However, the Press Office of the Turkish National Assembly penned a report on the MP for “making an official statement in a language other than Turkish.”
After the conference, Öcalan said “He had to make that statement in Kurdish.”
The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had recently launched an investigation into MP Ömer Öcalan due to his statement about jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. He had said in a local YSP organizations’ public meeting that “We are working for Abdullah Öcalan’s release, and we will keep working until Mr. Öcalan and Kurdistan is free.”
Kurds make up around a fifth of Turkey’s population, but few are able to speak their mother tongue due to a years-long systematic oppression of the language.
Turkey’s current constitution, ratified after the 1980 military coup, does not entirely prohibit the use of Kurdish, but successive governments have repeatedly cracked down on its use.
After President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, it loosened the restrictions on the Kurdish language to attract the votes of Kurdish citizens. But with the collapse of the ceasefire between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the government in 2015, the latter started to reverse advances made for the use of the Kurdish language.