MP sparks controversy for using Kurdish in Turkish Parliament


Despite the Turkish State’s opening of a government-operated Kurdish-language TV station, Kurds are still unable to use their language freely in the political arena.

Mr. Ahmet Turk, leader of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, used Kurdish in Turkey’s Parliament this week during an official meeting.  The live broadcast of the official’s speech was cut off by Turkey’s state television, TRT-3, when he switched from Turkish to Kurdish.  State television reporters explained that the broadcast was cut off because the Turkish constitution and legal rights for political parties only permit Turkish to be used in the Turkish Parliament.

Ironically, this decision by Turkish state television came after the recent opening of a government-operated Kurdish-language TV station, TRT-6, on the same network.  Critics have accused the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for using the opening of the channel as propaganda ahead of this year’s elections.

The recent action against Mr. Turk indicates that despite developments such as the opening of TRT-6, the unchanged Turkish laws still prevent Kurds from being able to use their language freely in the political arena.

This is only the second time Kurdish has been used in Turkey’s Parliament.  The last time, the well-known Kurdish activist and former parliamentarian, Leyla Zana, was charged and jailed for a decade.   Leyla Zana spoke Kurdish during her parliamentary oath and, shortly after, was charged on several counts related to separatism.  She was later declared a “Prisoner of Conscience” by Amnesty International, and received the Rafto Prize in 1994 and the Sakharov Prize in 1995 for her activism.

Ahmet Turk‘s latest move has caused a wave of controversy in Turkey.  A Turkish military spokesman has called for legal action against Mr. Turk for his use of Kurdish.

An English Translation of the portion of Mr. Turk’s speech in Kurdish can be found on Bianet.

Alliance for Kurdish Rights