HDP campaigns for "education in mother tongue against assimilation”

HDP campaigns for "education in mother tongue against assimilation”
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Kurdish parents urged Turkish government to introduce Kurdish as an education language in schools

Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) launched a campaign, calling for "education in mother tongue against assimilation” in Turkey. 

Speaking at the event held in southern Mersin province, parents and teachers have demanded education in mother tongue from pre-school to university.

Over the past few decades, Kurdish language faced periodical bans in Turkey. Following the 1980 Turkish military coup d’état, the military administration banned the use of Kurdish in public, depriving Kurdish people of their mother tongue in public settings. Even it was decriminalised in 1991, the use of the Kurdish language continues to be a controversial topic in the country.

In 2012, Turkish Education Ministry offered Kurdish language as an elective subject in public primary and secondary schools as part of government’s “reforms” introduced to ease tensions with Kurds living in Turkey. But following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s launching a crackdown on Kurdish movement after a peace process broke down in July 2015 with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), these courses effectively failed to attract attendance due to lack of teachers or students being forced to choose another subject. Kurds account for around 15 percent of the country’s population.

Selahattin Cam, a Kurdish teacher speaking at HDP’s event in Mersin, underlined the importance of mother tongue and said it is necessary to insist on Kurdish being an education language, Mezopotamya News Agency reported.

“In democratic countries, everyone should be able to learn their own language freely. We must protect the Kurdish language,” he said.

Sakine Ertas, mother of six said even though Kurdish is spoken at home, her children forget their mother tongue because they speak Turkish at school. 

“Our language is our pride. Kurdish lessons should become widespread, and children should be proficient in Kurdish outside their homes. Everyone should speak equally in their mother tongue,” she said.

According to a February report by Turkey’s Education Ministry, more than 20,000 students have chosen Kurdish language as an elective course during last academic year.

In response to main opposition Republican People's Party's (CHP)deputy Sezgin Tanrikulu’s parliamentary question over language courses in public schools, Education Minister Mahmut Ozer said 20,265 students chose Kurdish - Zazaki and Kurmanji as an elective course in 2021.

 Akin Birdal, co-founder and former head of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD) asked in an event in June if one can talk about freedom in a country, unless a person speaks in mother tongue.

Birdal, Turkey’s prominent human rights activist who has survived an assassination attempt by far-right nationalists in 1998, later served as a member of Turkish Parliament.