November 05, 2006

Newroz Píroz be!

Although Turkey has taken some steps toward reducing its oppression of the Kurds in hope of being admitted to the European Union, it keeps on backsliding. It is reported that Osman Baydemir, a prominent human rights activist now the mayor of Diyarbakır is being prosecuted for sending out cards containing New Year's greetings in Turkish, Kurdish, and English. "Happy New Year" in Kurdish is Newroz Píroz be!, the publication of which violates Act 1353 of November 1, 1928 on Adoption and Application of Turkish Letters, which forbids the use of any letters not found in the Turkish alphabet. Turkish does not use the letters q, w, or x.

The Constitution of 1982, incidentally, is unusual in that, while it contains provisions guaranteeing freedom of expression, it explicitly empowers the government to prohibit the use of languages not once but twice (Article 26, par. 3, Article 28, par. 2) and declares (Article 174, par. 6) the Act of November 1, 1928 to be constitutional. As amended in 2001 [the amendments are marked in this Turkish text], the Constitution no longer explicitly empowers the government to ban languages but continues to enshrine the Act of November 1, 1928. As I pointed out in my comment on a previous incident of this type, Turkey enforces this law selectively, using it only for the purpose of suppressing Kurdish. Meanwhile, one of the few good things that can be said to have come out of the invasion of Iraq is the improvement in the status of the Kurds and Kurdish.

Posted by Bill Poser at November 5, 2006 04:46 PM