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Kurdish activists apply to court to change names

AFP, 2003-10-27

ANKARA, Oct 27 (AFP) - 15h01 - Dozens of Kurdish activists asked courts across Turkey Monday to change their names to Kurdish ones written with the letters X, W and Q which Turkish law bans, a leader of the protest said.

The applications follow a regulation issued by the interior ministry last month, which allows Kurds to give their children ethnic names, but which specified that their spelling should be compatible with the Turkish alphabet.

The Turkish language does not generally use the letters X, W and Q, which exist however in the Kurdish language. But Xs, Ws and Qs are widely used in Turkey in the names of companies, television and radio channels as well as trademarks.

Ankara has allowed its sizeable Kurdish minority to use ethnic names as part of reforms it has enacted to boost Turkey's democratic credentials in its bid to join the European Union.

"We welcome the reform, but the ban on some letters is not in conformity with the spirit of the amendment," Ferhat Yegin, deputy head of the pro-Kurdish Free Society Party, told AFP after lodging an application with an Ankara court to change his name to "Qalferat."

Members of the Free Society Party and the other major pro-Kurdish movement in the country, the Democratic People's Party, filed similar applications with courts in Istanbul and in the southern city of Adana.

"We do not believe these letters can be a problem when they are already widely used in daily life," Kerem Ugur, the provincial head of the Democratic People's Party in Adana, said, according to Anatolia news agency.

Many Kurds have in the past ended up in court for giving their children ethnic names, which Turkish authorities viewed as a declaration in favor of Kurdish rebels fighting for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country.

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Conforming to Global Views

Giving ethnic names to children is not tantamount to siding with the rebels. It's simply a way of embracing the Kurdish culture. If they only conducted interrogatories, this wouldn't have been an issue at all. At least, the Turkish government sees the error of its ways now. And I love how the European Union is not budging about this issue.

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