This seminar will explore how escalating Turkish state terror has enabled the continuing genocide of the Kurdish people by repressing their language and identity. Resistance against state terror in the campaign for Kurdish language rights, however, demonstrates a growing social movement at a time when Turkey is being heralded as a 'model' for democracy in the region.
The language issue has come to the forefront in recent weeks with the mass trial of Kurdish politicians which opened in Diyarbakir in October last year; hundreds of Kurds, who stand accused of “links with terrorism”, have demanded the right to defend themselves in their Kurdish mother tongue in the courtroom which has so far been refused and only delayed the court proceedings. By the end of February 2011, 1.1 million signatures were presented to the Petition Commission of the Turkish Grand National Assembly two months after the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) initiated a campaign on 'Education in the Mother Language'. This campaign has been supported by many Kurdish and Turkish organisations, NGOs and trade unions including the Human Rights Association (IHD), the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUMDER), the teachers Education and Science Workers' Union (Egitim-Sen).
The legal recognition of language rights in Turkey ultimately need to be anchored in a democratic constitution and to date the slow pace of reforms has fallen far short of what is required.