Turkey to launch Kurdish TV to take on rebels

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Dec 29 15:32:57 UTC 2008

Turkey to launch Kurdish TV to take on rebels

The Associated PressPublished: December 27, 2008

ANKARA, Turkey: Turkey will launch its first 24-hour television
channel broadcasting in the once-banned Kurdish language next week in
an apparent attempt to cut support for Kurdish rebels fighting for
autonomy in the country's southeast. Analysts say the state-run news
channel is aimed at taking viewers from the Kurdish Roj TV, a
satellite station based in Belgium that is popular with many of the
country's estimated 14 million Kurds but has angered Turkey for
broadcasting statements by rebel commanders. The Kurdistan Workers'
Party, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and
the European Union, has been fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey
since 1984.

The state-run channel, which launches on Jan. 1, marks a change of
policy in a country where speaking Kurdish was banned until 1991.
Under pressure from the European Union to strengthen the rights of
minority Kurds, state television began broadcasting documentaries and
news in Kurdish in 2004 but for only about 30 minutes each week.
Turkey is seeking to weaken the rebels who have criticized the
government for a lack of broadcasts in the Kurdish language, said
Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst based at the Economic Policy Research
Institute in Ankara and an expert on the rebel group.

Turkey is changing its policy on Kurdish language broadcasts to cut
support to the rebels and create an alternative to the Roj TV," said
Ozcan. "At the same time, Turkey is meeting Kurdish demands for more
cultural rights under pressure from the European Union."
Several stations based in Iraq and Iran already broadcast in Kurdish
and can be seen in Turkey, according to Kurdish leaders.
However in Turkey, only state-run television will be allowed to
broadcast around-the-clock in Kurdish, the language of a minority who
make up about 20 percent of Turkey's population of more than 70

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to inaugurate the
station. It will broadcast news, music, serials, films and comedy
programs. "We are not engaging in social engineering," said Sinan
Ilhan, a senior official at the new station, TRT 6. "We will try to
reflect the mosaic and colors of our society." Many Kurds welcome the
new station but said it took too long to put in place. "There are
close to 10 stations that broadcast in Kurdish from Iraq or Iran,"
Mehmet Kaya, the head of the trade chamber for Diyarbakir, Turkey's
largest Kurdish-inhabited city, told Radikal newspaper. "This is a
practice that has been delayed." Sedat Yurttas, a former Kurdish
legislator, said it was an important step and "the result of the
Kurdish people's struggle" for greater rights for Kurds, a non-Arab
people distantly related to the Iranians.


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