The Turkish government prohibits the use of the Kurdish language in public education and has also been banning a range of radio and television programmes in Kurdish for years. Emine Akşahin, Co-Chair of the Diyarbakır (Amed) Bureau of the Education and Science Workers’ Union spoke to Mesopotamia Agency (MA) regarding to the bans on Kurdish in Turkey, at a time when people are preparing to celebrate 21 February as International Mother Language Day.
The restrictions on Kurdish language regarded by Kurds, public interest and educational groups and linguistic rights campaigners and community activists as a strategy that is used to refuse to recognize the cultural identity of the Kurdish citizens in Turkey.
Emine Akşahin emphasized the importance of mother language on an individual’s personal development and stated that pressures against the Kurdish language continue in Turkey in a systematic manner.
‘Speaking one’s mother language is a universal human right’
Akşahin stressed that the policies on the Kurdish language carry the purpose of “uniformization” of the identity and culture of people. The ban on the Kurdish language is a reflection of discriminatory policies that are based on the concept of “nation-building” that aims at the standardization of citizenship, with Turkish being the language and nationality that is imposed, Akşahin noted.
”The ban on the mother tongue harms the individual’s identity and emotional integrity”, she said. “Speaking one’s mother language is a universal human right. The mother language should be used in all public spheres, media outlets and education”.
‘Many of the children in our region cannot learn their mother tongue’
Akşahin stated that language is more than a means of communication. “The emotional integrity of an individual is damaged due to the ban on the language. The right to learn, speak, write in and be educated in the mother language is a universal right. It is scientifically proven that children educated in their mother language are more successful in classes”, she said.
Due to the ban on Kurdish in schools, Kurdish children become more disadvantaged in education, Akşahin noted. “Many of the children in our region cannot learn their mother tongue. Kurdish children do not even have the right to be educated in their mother language. Whilst their peers learn the basic courses such as mathematics at school, Kurdish children try to cope with learning Turkish. That’s why they always start from behind”, she said.
‘We struggle for education in the mother language’
“If the people from many ethnic and cultural communities continue to lack education in their mother languages, these people will continue to be discriminated against in the public sphere”, said Akşahin. “The understanding of one culture, one language, one identity is a great obstacle to the development of both the individual and society”.
There are some university departments in Turkey that offer education in Kurdish, but the “Kurdish language in some university departments are only opened symbolically”, Şahin observed. “There is a whole system of education based on Turkish before a student reaches up to university education”, she said.
Şahin referred to the struggles the Education and Science Workers’ Union in Turkey has been engaged in, regarding these concerns. “We struggle for education in the mother language. Our Union supports the idea that children should be educated in their mother language, not a language they are obliged to learn once they step foot in primary education”, she said.