The Higher Education Board (YÖK) will meet today in Ankara to discuss opening Kurdish language and literature departments at universities around the country.
The head of YÖK, Professor Yusuf Ziya Özcan, said at a meeting with the presidents of 27 universities across Turkey that universities cannot keep their distance from a language which is spoken by 13 million citizens.
“Our approach to the subject is scientific. According to estimates, this is a language spoken by 12-13 million people. It is not right for universities to keep their distance from such a language,” he said.
Özcan pointed out that at universities there are departments studying and teaching many different languages, and now Kurdish can be one of them.
He added that their efforts to open Kurdish language departments are related to the government's democratization initiative but even if this process ceases, they will continue to address the issue.
The government launched its democratization initiative to solve the country's decades-old Kurdish question. The government has not shaped its plan yet but it is expected that it will include new regulations on the Kurdish language. “If universities volunteer to open up this new department, we will give them permission,” Özcan said.
Artuklu University in Mardin has already applied to YÖK for permission to teach Kurdish classes.
Özcan added that they chose 27 universities to invite to that meeting because those universities have literature faculties and have the infrastructure needed for Kurdish language departments.
Ankara, Anadolu, Artivin, Çoruh, Atatürk, Bilkent, Çukurova, Dicle, Hakkari, Artuklu, Marmara, Muş, Nevşehir, May 19, Kafkas, Black Sea Technical, Trakya and Tunceli universities were among those who participated in the meeting.
Özcan added that at the meeting they discussed both Kurdish language departments and how universities can contribute to the democratization initiative of the government.
Özcan noted that if Kurdish departments open they will not suffer from a scarcity of academic personnel, since they plan to reshuffle academics who know Kurdish currently housed in Persian and Arabic language departments to the new Kurdish language departments.
“But there are some other arrangements which have to be made. We will continue to exchange views with universities in our next meeting Sept. 10. We are trying to do our best because we believe that it will continue along the same track it starts on. This is why we want to start Kurdish language education in the most beneficial way and plan to progress in the best way,” he added.
Discussion on education in Kurdish continues
Meanwhile, State Minister Hayati Yazıcı said that since the official language and language of education is Turkish, there is nothing wrong if citizens want to learn Kurdish just like there is nothing wrong when students want to learn English, Arabic and French.
“Whoever wants to learn whatsoever language can do it,” he said.
When he was reminded of remarks by Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal regarding Kurdish education Yazıcı said that the state prepares the ground for freedoms and rights and it is up to citizens to enjoy them.
Baykal had said that if there is Kurdish education in state schools, the title of “national” in front of the Education Ministry (whose Turkish title translates directly to “National Education Ministry”) should be removed.
Yazıcı stated that although he did not examine the subject in detail, he thought there was no need for constitutional amendments in order to add Kurdish language to the curriculum as an elective course.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) parliamentary group chairman Oktay Vural opposed the preparations by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) to pave the way for 24-hour broadcasting in Kurdish on private channels and said the move was a clear sign of the government's efforts to turn Turkey into a multi-language country in which nobody will be able to understand each other.
At the beginning of the year the state-run TRT launched a channel which broadcasts 24 hours in Kurdish, but the private channels have not been given the same opportunity yet.
Vural said that if any regulation with this direction is upheld it would mean a separation.
“Will they post traffic signs in 36 different languages? Such a move will mean separation,” he said.