[lg policy] Turkey to Allow Kurdish Elective Classes

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 13 15:26:59 UTC 2012

Turkey to Allow Kurdish Elective Classes

By Ayla Albayrak

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan introduced a small step to
soften its strict single-language policy in Turkey’s public schools.

Mr. Erdogan said Tuesday that elective Kurdish language classes could
be introduced in Turkish schools “if a sufficient number of pupils
gather” to request Kurdish language instruction.

“Kurdish can be taken as an elective class; it can be taught and be
learned. This is a historical step. This way, our citizens with
different mother tongues can develop their languages according to
their needs and demand,” Mr. Erdogan said, speaking to his party’s
lawmakers. He added that necessary legal framework already exists in
Turkey to allow this.

Kurdish teaching has been banned so far in Turkish schools, despite
the country’s millions of Kurds, some of whom only speak different
Kurdish dialects. Children in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast
provinces are taught in Turkish starting in first grade, whether they
know Turkish or not.

Turkey introduced the first Kurdish-language television programs on a
state channel in 2004 ahead of membership negotiations with the
European Union the following year. Later, the country expanded to open
a Kurdish state TV channel and allowed private Kurdish TV and radio

Kurdish lawmakers, who demand political autonomy in Turkey’s
southeast, as well as education in the Kurdish language, criticized
the introduction of elective classes as insufficient. Turkey’s main
Kurdish party, the Peace and Democracy Party, said education in the
mother tongue should be recognized as a constitutional right. Turkish
lawmakers are working on a new draft constitution to replace the one
from 1982, which was dictated by military leaders who staged a coup in

Mr. Erdogan shrugged off criticism, accusing Kurdish lawmakers of
playing into the hands of the illegal Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which
has run an armed campaign against the Turkish state since 1984, first
for Kurdish independence and later for regional autonomy.

“The terrorist organization and its supporters, who have until today
tried to invalidate, to belittle and to ignore all of our steps…have
already started their attempts to react against this,” Mr. Erdogan

Pressure has mounted on the Turkish government to solve its so-called
Kurdish question in recent years, as the PKK has escalated its attacks
against Turkish security forces and observers have warned Turkey
against resorting to merely military methods for solving the conflict.

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