ISTANBUL – The Turkish parliament has passed an amendment legalising the use of Kurdish in election campaigns, and thus removing an important restriction on the use of the language. This is according to reports in several Turkish media on Thursday. In parliament Turkish remains the only language allowed.
During last year’s local government elections, several Kurdish politicians got into trouble for using Kurdish in speeches at election rallies or for handing out flyers in Kurdish. The now banned pro-Kurdish DTP party wanted to reach all of their potential voters by using their mother tongue, since not all Kurds know Turkish very well, but the election law forbade the use of any language other than Turkish. In the next elections, which will be the general elections in 2011, that will no longer be a problem.
Up to 1990 it was forbidden in Turkey to speak Kurdish in public. Ever since that ban was lifted, the language slowly got more space. By now, Kurdish can be studied at university, there is a Kurdish state TV channel, Kurdish can be taught at private schools, and Kurdish artists have more opportunities to use their own language.
On the other hand, children can’t be given a Kurdish name with an x, w or q, since those letters don’t exist in Turkish. At state schools Kurdish is forbidden, in Parliament Turkish remains the only language allowed, and state information can only be disseminated in Turkish.