2012-03-14

Abant Platform proposes mother tongue education

Experts point out that allowing mother tongue education would foster multilingualism and not displace Turkish as the primary language of the state and society.

By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 14/03/12

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The 26th Abant Platform, which brings together high-profile intellectuals, journalists, legal experts and politicians, concluded on Sunday (March 11th) with a recommendation that Turkey's Constitution recognise the right to education in languages other than Turkish.

  • The issue of providing public education in languages other than Turkish continues to polarise the country. [Reuters]

    The issue of providing public education in languages other than Turkish continues to polarise the country. [Reuters]

"Education in one's mother tongue is an essential human right. The constitution should not have any restrictions on receiving an education in one's mother tongue and it should recognise the right of education in different languages. In addition to this, provided that the official language of the country is taught and learned, everyone has the right to use his/her mother tongue in education," the final declaration stated.

As a key demand of Turkey's Kurdish population, education in languages other than Turkish is a particularly sensitive and politicised issue. Article 42 of the constitution prohibits the teaching of any language other than Turkish as a primary language in schools. While the government took some steps in the early 2000s towards allowing private Kurdish courses in line with the EU harmonisation process, many such courses faced restrictions and closed down.

Because multilingualism has been closely intertwined with the Kurdish issue, it has often been viewed as security threat, says Muge Ayan, an expert on language issues at Bilgi University in Istanbul. "It is fed by a fear [the state] will be divided," she explained to SES Türkiye.

According to Ayan, another concern about education in languages other than Turkish is that it could lead to the polarisation of society based on the scenario that Turkish pupils would attend Turkish schools, while Kurdish pupils would receive education in Kurdish in separate schools.

She says this is based on a misconception by some segments that mother tongue education means education in only one language, whereas in reality it would mean multilingualism.

"Multilingual educational models can be designed by covering both the mother tongue of the pupil, the dominant language of the society [Turkish] and also an international language like English," she said.

Another facet of mother tongue education is whether it would give special privileges to the Kurdish people, as the second largest ethnic group in the country.

However, according to Turgut Tarhanli, a law professor at Bilgi University, such a constitutional guarantee would not constitute a privilege to any specific group, but would be an opportunity to establish equality between them.

"In addition to this, the relevant article of the constitution should not precisely refer to any specific language, but instead would establish a basic principle on the issue," Tarhanli told SES Türkiye, acknowledging that other social and cultural groups could also claim similar rights in this process.

Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy and prominent Kurdish writer Altan Tan told SES Türkiye that the use of languages other than Turkish both in educational and public spheres would be an important step towards the resolution of the Kurdish problem in Turkey.

As a platform that brings together the voices of those who want democracy and freedom in the country, Tan says the government should consider what the Abant Platform has to say.

"If the government had paid attention to the previous declarations of the Abant Platform, we would have already reached a different stage in the resolution of Kurdish problem," Tan emphasised, noting that during the Platform’s previous meeting in 2008, the right to speak one's native language and use it in teaching and education was considered an undisputed human right.

Gokhan Bacik, of Zirve University, agrees with Tan, adding that the Kurds who attended the Abant Platform did not oppose the idea of having Turkish as the primary language in education and public spheres. "All these people want is to use their native language alongside Turkish in order to make daily life easier," he said.

Bacik underlines that without a constitutional guarantee for mother tongue education, the new constitution wouldn't have legitimacy in the eyes of some segments of society. "It is dangerous to have only one language in education. The state should soften its stance and take an approach that unites people," he told SES Türkiye.

Now, as the constitutional process continues, the state's traditional red lines over the issue of mother tongue education may be shifting. Minister of National Education Omer Dincer went so far as to say that Kurdish might become an optional language in schools.

"If you are establishing a flexible system, why can't we provide our Kurdish citizens with courses in Kurdish just like we are providing pupils with German or English courses?" he said on TRT television on March 12th.

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  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Education in Kurdish definitely does not conflict with the fact that Turkish is the official language. Turkey urgently needs to grant the right to education in one’s mother tongue if she wants to become more powerful. I agree with this suggestion with all my heart. Let everyone live in peace as brothers. Long live the brotherhood of people!

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Well, but our problem as Kurds is a political one. We are human beings like you and so we are entitled to every right in terms of our language and our identity. We should be free to determine our political preferences and our lands should be recognized by its name. Otherwise, we will have to take care of it ourselves just like everyone else does. And we would do no harm to you. Such restriction is a shame of humanity – especially that hypocritical EU. I am we will succeed. Best regards.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Of course, it is wrong to restrict rights. Recognizing Kurdish as an official language would be good in terms conserving the language for future generations.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Education in native language is the most natural right as much as eating and drinking. Being contrary to this is the biggest hostility to Turkey. It can be too late after a while. Status quo of 90 years had made Turkey lost many things. It should not be fallen into the same error.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Turk-Kurd are brothers. They should have equal rights and freedoms. I support.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    I am not a Kurd, but I love Kurds and want to learn Kurdish.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Those, who grant human rights and values to other people, create a free environment for their development and transformation, and secure the necessary conditions for all these, should unconditionally do the same for Kurds as well. Kurds are human too. Wherever you are and whatever your ethnic identity, religion or mother tongue is, never forget and let it be forgotten that Kurds have the same friendships, loves, fights, sorrows and joys as all other people, and that they are entitled to have the basic rights and freedoms required for leading a life with dignity. Moreover, these are necessary for all humans, not just Kurds.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    I’m going to say only one thing: If they have a mother tongue, they also have a motherland. They should go there to speak their mother tongue and claim their rights. They should stop using the Turkish Republic. They can go to Iraq, Iran or Syria to claim their rights. We would not give away even a square meter of our lands to them. During the Iraq war back in 1990s, Turkish people took pity on Kurds, who fled for their lives, and received them with open arms. But look at what they did in return. They betrayed us by ruining the peaceful environment in our country.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    “I’ll say just one thing. If they have a native language, they have a country as well. Let them go there, talk there, claim for their rights over there, not abuse Turkish Republic, go to Iraq, Iran, Syria and claim for their rights there. We do not have any single allotment of land to give them. Turkish people showed their mercy for the Kurds who run into Turkish borders to save their lives in Iraq war in ’90s by embracing them. But what they did? They demonstrated their betrayal and treachery by not giving me piece in my country.” No one can get anywhere by such thoughts. Shame on the ones who think like this.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Kurds have been living on these lands for ages. If you have a problem with that, go back to moors of Central Asia and leave the Middle East alone. You don’t like it when I say that, do you? It’s harsh, isn’t it? But you’re writing much worse than that about others everyday. I suggest you to show some empathy, my friends.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    The rights of Kurds should be given, how long will they live without any status?

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Kurds have been living on these lands from all eternity.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Very good.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Good luck with it!

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    People like you will divide this country.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Badi’ al-Zaman Said Nursi said, back in 1908, that Arabic is obligatory, Turkish is necessary and Kurdish is permissible. There is no need to delay this any longer. Besides, Kurdish’s being an official language would not divide the state. The proof is in the European and US states.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Indeed there is much thing to write, you don’t want to understand. It’s a matter of “The one came from the mountain is dismissing the other one in the orchard”. These Kurds have a history of 5000 years on these lands. Turkey has become like this due to racist minds. They’ve pushed the Kurds to go to the mountains. You’ve always humiliated the Kurds and you’re still doing this. You’ve never looked at them as your real brothers. You’ve always cheated them. We’ve always loved you, we’ve made you our crowns, we’ve become your feet, we’ve carried you. When Ottoman Empire had been collapsing, all the nations become states but Kurds did not leave you, they’ve always been with you, just like in Canakkale. You’re still externalizing, you’re calling them as terrorists. First, put yourself in our shoes and then talk.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    If you ask me, Turks had not given the rights of Kurds along the history, always hang around in the past, now and in the future. Whenever they realize that ungrateful Kurds has sold out them, then Kurds will reach their own rights, morever in near future.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    It is very touching. It even moved me to tears.

  • msp1955 about 2 years

    People living in this country are, of course, entitled to use their mother tongue. Kurds have been already speaking Kurdish for years. However, the state can have only one official language in the public domain. A multilingual state would create trouble and hurt the spirit of brotherhood.

Name: Anonymous - Have your comments posted immediately!


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