Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has responded to controversy surrounding the exclusion of Kurdish from Turkey’s multi-lingual online prescription service, E-Reçetem. Koca stated that five foreign languages – English, German, Arabic, French, and Russian – were offered on the service in response to the country’s rising success in health tourism.
The Minister’s statement came after criticism from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who asked; “Of course congratulations are in order, but where is Kurdish, the ancient language of these lands?”
“The system defaults to Turkish when accessed with a Turkish Identification Number. Turkey shows developments in health tourism that every sensitive citizen would be proud of,” Koca said. He added that the service increasingly receives requests from foreign patients to speak to doctors in their native tongue.
However, the Minister’s explanation did not address the absence of Kurdish, the second most widely-spoken language in Turkey. His statement has been met with further criticism for avoiding the issue of upholding the linguistic rights of millions of Kurdish citizens in the country.
Meanwhile, Health and Social Service Workers’ Union (SES) Urfa (Riha) Branch Co-president Salih Karataş weighed in on the issue, describing the exclusion of Kurdish from the E-Reçetem system as a “violation of the right to health”. “Ignoring Kurdish in healthcare is tantamount to leaving Kurds to die,” he said. “What Health Minister Koca should do is provide equal service to all citizens: Just as health services are offered in other languages, they should also be offered in Kurdish.”
Karataş further argued that the absence of Kurdish is a manifestation of the Turkish government’s assimilation policies aimed at erasing the Kurdish language and identity. He emphasised that Kurds, politicians, and democratic institutions must stand against such policies by fully embracing the Kurdish language in healthcare, education and politics.