Turkey launches Kurdish television station

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Jan 2 15:41:36 UTC 2009

Turkey launches Kurdish television station
The Associated PressPublished: January 1, 2009

ANKARA, Turkey: Turkey on Thursday launched its first 24-hour
Kurdish-language television station while its prime minister uttered a
few words in the once-banned tongue, in a marked shift of policy
toward the country's minority Kurds. State-run television's Kurdish
station, TRT 6, went on air at 1700 GMT with an image of the Turkish
flag being hoisted to the sound of the country's national anthem,
followed by a concert by popular Kurdish singer Rojin. Earlier
Thursday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the first leader
to speak Kurdish at an official setting when he said "May TRT 6 be
beneficial" at a news conference.

The channel 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. The round-the-clock broadcasts are an
apparent attempt to cut support for Kurdish rebels fighting for
autonomy in the country's southeast and to take viewers away from the
Kurdish Roj TV, a Europe-based satellite station. Turkey's legal
Kurdish political party, the Democratic Society Party, boycotted
Thursday's launch ceremony, accusing Erdogan's ruling party of using
the station as a tool to win Kurdish votes ahead of local elections in
March. "There is a need for a broadcasting policy that understands
Kurds and meets their demands. We are carefully observing the process.
We will see in time whether this is something that was initiated with
the elections in mind," said the party's leader, Ahmet Turk.

Erdogan said he believes the station will eventually lead to Kurdish
broadcasts by private television stations. "The private sector would
not be involved unless the state takes steps," Erdogan said. "But
everything will be realized in time. We need to be patient." The
station — which can be watched through satellite dishes and some
digital cable — will air news programs, documentaries, films, comedy
and popular Turkish soap operas dubbed in Kurdish, as well as music
clips by Kurdish artists that were once banned.

Singer Rojin said she plans to host a program dealing with women's
issues, including so-called honor killings of women, which are common
in Turkey's mostly Kurdish populated regions. "For years there was a
wrongful policy ... of denial (against Kurds)," Rojin said in an
interview with Milliyet newspaper. "I think the station is an
important step toward peace." Abdurrahman Kurt, a Kurdish legislator
from Erdogan's party who was instrumental in TRT 6's launch, said:
"This is a revolution which amounts to unification of the Turkish
state with its citizens. Kurdish channel is not a favor, but the
return of the people's denied right."


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