Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Saturday that five languages have been added to Turkey’s online prescription service E-Reçetem. The announcement sparked an immediate backlash for its exclusion of Kurdish, a native language spoken by millions of Kurdish citizens in Turkey and the country’s second most widely-spoken language.
Koca stated that the languages now available are English, German, Arabic, French and Russian. “Languages fully tested in the online prescription system started to go live yesterday morning, and all languages are now live. Good luck,” Koca stated on social media platform X.
The announcement sparked an immediate backlash from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). “Of course congratulations are in order, but where is Kurdish, the ancient language of these lands? Why haven’t you included it in the system? What happened to ‘there is no Kurdish issue’?; What happened to ‘we don’t discriminate against Kurds?” the party responded on the same platform.
The exclusion of Kurdish from the E-Reçetem system is not an isolated incident but part of a broader issue concerning language rights in Turkey. According to a bulletin by Minority Rights Group Europe, Kurds and other minorities in Turkey “struggle to prove their existence” and have no right to mother-tongue education in schools. Where rare opportunities do exist, parents often avoid enrolling their children in elective courses for minority languages due to societal stigma.
The issue of language rights has been a longstanding point of contention between the government and the Kurdish opposition. Various organisations, such as the Kurdish Language Platform and the Language Rights Monitoring Documentation and Reporting Network, have called for the recognition of 19 mother tongues in Turkey and for the removal of government control over Kurdish language teaching.
A January 2022 survey revealed that 87.7% of respondents call for education in their mother tongue starting from pre-school. The Health Ministry’s recent announcement, therefore, not only flies in the face of public opinion but also raises concerns about the government’s willingness to address the linguistic needs of its diverse population.