A small group of Kurdish funeral service workers recruited by a company affiliated with the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality have been indicted for alleged ties with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in an attempt to criminalise the Istanbul Mayor and major opposition figure Ekrem İmamoğlu for employing them. One of the allegations against the workers is reportedly ‘the use of PKK-specific words’ in sermons.
According to the details of an indictment recently revealed in the Turkish media, the prosecutor claimed that the use of certain words by the funeral service workers, also members of the legal Association of Clerics (DİAY-DER), was an indication that they had links to the PKK, because such words were “not common in the Kurmanji language spoken in Turkey” and were exclusively used in PKK circles.
Nagehan Alçı, a journalist and an opinion writer for the mainstream media organ Habertürk, reported on Monday that among those words was the word ‘cüda’ (pronounced jüda), a Kurdish (Kurmanji) and Persian word used in the Ottoman language to signify the state of being apart from one’s homeland.
Alçı added that the word ‘cüda’ was also used in the Independence March, the Turkish national anthem.
In the anthem, written by the poet Mehmet Akif Ersoy in 1921, the word is used in a line as follows:
“Cânı, cânânı, bütün varımı alsın da Hudâ,
Etmesin tek vatanımdan beni dünyâda cüdâ.”
An English translation of the line is:
“If God will, may he take my life, my beloved, and my wealth,
and I only pray that I won’t be torn apart from my homeland.”
A process that started with Erdoğan’s remark
It all began after President Erdoğan said on 5 December, “Istanbul shall find its owner again, and this is the Justice and Development Party”. Three days later the Turkish interior minister claimed in the Turkish parliament that there were hundreds of workers linked to terrorism in the opposition-governed Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
For several weeks no evidence was provided by the minister or any other official for this claim, then on the last day of the year it emerged that an indictment had been prepared by a prosecutor accusing a group of funeral service workers of alleged ties to the PKK, designated a ‘terrorist group’ in Turkey and the European Union.