Turks back Turkish language in Germany, but not Kurdish in Turkey: Survey

December 16, 2013 – RUDAW –  ANKARA,— Most people in Turkey believe that the children of Turkish immigrants in Germany should have the right to education in their own language, but less than half as many back the same right for Kurds in Turkey, according to a survey by an Istanbul-based social research group.

The poll, taken in 27 cities across Turkey by the Konda Research and Consultancy Company and released to coincide with the UN-inspired Human Rights Week, places two opinions side by side: Turks believe that the children of Turkish immigrants should be taught their own language in public schools; they do not believe that the millions of Kurds under Turkish rule have the same right to language.

The survey reveals that 81 percent of the people polled agree that denying ethnically Turkish children in Germany the right to study in their own language is a human rights violation, while only 47 percent see denying the same right to Kurdish children in Turkey as a breach.

“It is not very surprising that Turkish people distance themselves from the language and rights of Kurds,” said Ali Fikri Isik, a Kurdish literary critic and one of the pioneers of the Kurdish conscientious objection movement in Turkey. He told Rudaw that Turks have not been able to incorporate the true meaning of “rights” to their own culture. “You cannot develop a democratic stance toward something that you denied for years,” Isik said, referring to Turkey’s decades-long oppression of its Kurds,.net who until the turn of this millennium faced fines or prison for even speaking their own language in public or listening to songs in Kurdish.

Kurds comprise an estimated 20 percent of Turkey’s 76 million population and live in the predominantly Kurdish southeast regions, where Ankara does not allow the Kurdish language taught in schools.

Zana Farqini, head of the Kurdish Institute of Istanbul, told Rudaw that the findings of the survey did not come as a shock. “When linguistic and cultural rights of Kurds are discussed, the dominant ideology in Turkey is shaped by the paranoia of separatism. Not only ordinary citizens, but also top-level state officials have the same view about this issue,” Farqini said.

“When former president Suleyman Demirel went to the Balkans, he told the Turkish people there to speak their mother tongue. When Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan went to Germany, he said assimilation is a crime against humanity. So when it comes to the rights of Turks living in other countries, they never think about the threat of separatism,” Farqini said.

“The right to get education in one’s native language is not a negotiable right. Actually, it is a sacred and innate right that everyone should have without any exceptions, but the Turkish education system is based on double standards,” Farqini charged.

Meanwhile, a survey by the Political and Social Research Center (SAMER) about the perceptions and expectations of Kurds in 22 Kurdish cities in Turkey – taken after a “Democratization Package” announced by the Turkish government in October – showed that a majority of the respondents did not back the initiative.

Nearly 67 percent of the participants said the democratization package has not met their demands. Only 17.4 percent thought that the initiative was sufficient to solve Turkey’s Kurdish issue.

When asked what the next democratization package should include, about three-quarters of the respondents said: The political status of Kurds should be recognized; Kurds should be able to get education in Kurdish at public schools; Kurdish should be one of the official languages of Turkey; the democratic autonomy of Kurds should established; there should be an amnesty for political prisoners, and local administrations should be strengthened. Only about 40 percent of Turkey’s Kurds see positive developments in a government process to resolve the country’s Kurdish issue, according to the SAMER survey. Teaching and publishing in Kurdish became strictly forbidden after the Turkish republic was established in 1923.