Kurdish broadcasting in Turkey allowed

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Nov 21 13:28:12 UTC 2002

New York Times, November 21, 2002

Turkey Allows Broadcasting of Kurdish-Language Shows


    ANKARA, Turkey, Nov. 20 Turkey's broadcasting authority today
authorized state radio and television to air limited programs in the
once-banned Kurdish language, a step toward meeting European Union
membership requirements. Turkey's Parliament voted in August to allow
television and radio stations to broadcast in regional languages such as
Kurdish. The European Union welcomed the reform but said it would wait to
see if it would be properly carried out.

The changes could not be put into force until the broadcasting authority
ruled on the details. Fatih Karaca, the head of the broadcasting
authority, said today that only state television and radio, not private
stations, could air the broadcasts. He said radio broadcasts in Kurdish or
other regional languages could not exceed 45 minutes per day and a total
of four hours a week. Television broadcasts in Kurdish cannot exceed 30
minutes a day and a total of two hours a week.

It is not clear when the broadcasts will start. The decision comes as
Turkey lobbies the European Union for membership.  Kurdish activists have
criticized the regulations, saying the limits violate basic freedoms.
"This is not democratic, this is not freedom," said Naci Kutluay, deputy
chairman of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Democratic People's Party. "This will
neither satisfy the Kurds, nor the E.U."

Turkey's new prime minister, Abdullah Gul, acknowledged today that Turkey
still had a lot to do to meet European Union standards, but he promised to
carry out further reforms. "We will take steps that will shock the E.U.,"
he told reporters. The issue of broadcasting or teaching Kurdish is
extremely sensitive in Turkey. The government does not regard Turkey's 12
million Kurds as a minority and sees any assertions of separate Kurdish
identity as an attempt to divide the country along ethnic lines. Speaking
Kurdish was illegal in Turkey until 1991.

Beginning in 1984, Kurdish guerrillas fought a 15-year war in southeastern
Turkey that left 37,000 people dead, most of them Kurds. Turkish
hard-liners say that granting language rights to Kurds rewards the
guerrillas. But the European Union has demanded that Turkey grant
increased minority rights and has specifically pointed to limitations on
the Kurdish language.

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