So how are the Kurds in Turkey doing?

If what is happening to their culture is any indication, not so well. Children detained for listening to Kurdish music, schools closed.

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Uzay Bulut,

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Yoni Kempinski

Uzay Bulut, born a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Washington, D.C. who keeps a close watch on her country of birth, sends current reports to Arutz Sheva.

21 February marks the “International Mother Tongue Day” or “the International Year of Languages”, a worldwide annual observance held on to promote awareness of native languages and celebrate linguistic diversity – but definitely not for the Kurds in Turkey.

The news website Kurdistan24 reported on February 20:

“A teacher at a high school in the western Turkish city of Aydin reported six of his students to police for listening to Kurdish music and dancing, leading to their interrogation by police last week on the grounds of ‘disseminating terrorist propaganda.’

“Fourteen-year-old student Y.B. and five of his friends at the Aydin Anatolian Imam Hatip High school were doing ‘govend,’ a Kurdish dance, during a break when their school counselor walked on them and confiscated a flash drive they were using.

“The counselor and the school's administrator allegedly reported the students to the local prosecutor's office which notified the police on February 14.

“After interrogation at a police station in Aydin where their parents were also summoned, the students were referred to a local courthouse which decided to release them for lack of proof with the condition of a judicial control.

“The DHA reported that the students faced 'psychological problems' for what they had to go through. They stopped attending their classes after being shunned at school.”

When the Turkish state was founded in 1923, Turkish authorities claimed that there was no Kurdish language and no Kurdish people. Kurds were euphemistically said to be “mountain Turks,” and were given no national rights. Since then, some 20 million Kurdish citizens have not been allowed to get education at public schools in their native language.

"Soon after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey," reported Human Rights Watch (HRW), "its government embarked upon a radical program of nation-building. Ethnic diversity was perceived as a danger to the integrity of the state.... Those who refused often met with severe repression."

Kurdish activists in Turkey have been trying to keep their language alive with their own resources and efforts. However, even these very limited endeavors are suffocated by the Turkish government: The latest attempt to eradicate the Kurdish language was the closing down of the Kurdish daycare centers in Diyarbakir.

Financed by the pro-Kurdish DBP (Democratic Regions Party) municipalities in Diyarbakir, 3 daycare centers called “Zarokistan” (the land of children) were opened in 2014. 120 children were receiving education in Kurdish at these centers. The curriculum was monitored by the Turkish Ministry of Education.

But right after the Kurdish co-mayor of the Kayapinar town in Diyarbakir, Mehmet Ali Aydin, was arrested, a trustee was assigned by the government on December 8 of last year. The trustee closed down the daycare centers on February 15.

The trustee also dismissed the entire staff of these day care centers - 14 teachers, 2 administrators and 2 caterers.

The first and only remaining Kurdish private primary school in Turkey − named after Ferzad Kemanger, an Iranian-Kurdish teacher hanged by Iran in 2010 – has also been closed down by the decision of the governor’s office in Diyarbakir, in a note that read in part: “The school was closed because it was against the regulations of the Ministry of National Education”.

The door of the school was sealed by police officers in October of last year. The school was opened in Diyarbakir in 2014 and had 238 students between the ages of 5 and 11.

“The children received education there in their own language and culture,” Bilge Koyun, the mother of one of the students, Roni Bahoz Koyun, told the newspaper Yeni Ozgur Politika. “They could not even tolerate that. They got scared of the education the children were getting.”

Another Kurdish private school, the Berivan Primary School in the Kurdish town of Cizre, was opened in 2014. It was sealed by police three times but the education at the school continued until this year when a trustee, who was appointed by the government to be the new mayor, closed down the school.

The Uveys Ana private primary school in the Kurdish town of Gever was also the target of continued attacks of Turkish police. The school, which had 100 students, was raided several times by security forces. In addition, the former building of the school was seized by police and turned into a military outpost during the “curfew” imposed on the town last year. As the new building could not be prepared for the new education year this year, the school could not be opened.

The scholar Derya Bayir writes in her 2013 book Minorities and Nationalism in Turkish Law that "In various areas of public life, the use of languages other than Turkish is still effectively prohibited in Turkey. The restrictions on party political literature, political campaigns and speeches, local government activities including sponsorship of events and provision of services, and controls on languages used by associations have not become flexible."

Even entering the parliament as a democratically-elected MP does not protect a Kurd from the Turkish intolerance to the Kurdish language.

In December, 2013, for example, Halil Aksoy, an MP of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), delivered a speech at Turkey’s parliament in which he criticized the Turkish state “for not attaching importance to the Kurdish works of art” and read a Kurdish verse by Sherko Bekas, a well-known Kurdish poet, and its Turkish translation at the end of his speech.

The Turkish version of the poem was directly written to the minutes whereas the Kurdish version was written as “...” (Triple dots). The minutes also referred to the Kurdish verse as “words which are not Turkish.”

A 2015 survey called Public Dynamics Before the June 2015 Elections, which was carried out with 2,201 participants from forty-nine Turkish cities, revealed that the views of the vast majority of the Turkish public on the use of Kurdish as a language of instruction were in line with the official ideology of the Turkish government.

In the survey, the voters of the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party - 78 %) and of the opposition parties - CHP (Republican People’s Party - 85 %), and MHP (Nationalist Action Party - 91 %) - agreed that “All children in Turkey should receive their primary education in Turkish no matter what ethnic group they come from.”

In Turkey, “forcing the Kurds to abandon their language and become native speakers of Turkish is the primary goal of the language policy,” writes the researcher Amir Hassanpour. “The policy of Republican Turkey since its establishment in 1923 is a typical case of what has been called ‘linguicide’ or ‘linguistic genocide’.”