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Isn't Kurdish free in this country?

We are waiting for the answer to the question: Isn't Kurdish free in this country?

Although Anatolia is a multi-linguistic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious community, practices  in Turkey reject multi-culturalism and multi-linguism and every passing day,  bans are given legitimacy. Despite the fact that law no 2932 banning Kurdish language was abolished  in 1991, practices that are against the law and the legislation are still continuing. 

On May 23, each of the two Kurdish citizens in a leisure park in Konya were imposed a fine of 62 YTL on the allegation that they were “making noise” speaking in Kurdish on the mobile phone with their families.

A university student in Erzurum was detained because he was reading the daily paper “Azadiya Welat”, and [therefore] he was dismissed de-facto from school. The school and dormitory administrations accompanied him when he was being discharged –in the format of lynching- from the dormitory; and he was told that he could no longer accommodate himself in the town, so he should leave immediately.

In many prisons in Diyarbakır and the region, delivery of the Kurdish paper “Azadiya Welat” by the prison administration to many inmates is on arbitrary basis. The right of these citizens for information has been confiscated and also, “Freedom of Press” enshrined in article 3 of Press Law no 5187 published in the Official Gazette of 24 June 2004, has been clearly violated.

Article 3 of the Press Law says “The Press is free. This freedom encompasses right to have access to, disseminate, criticize, interpret information and create works.” which clearly indicates that distribution of the paper can not be prevented.

Along with the EU process, political representatives in our country continuously have been saying that many legislative amendments have taken place; however, in the recent years, almost everyday, rights have been stepped on. Speaking Kurdish language, reading a Kurdish paper, publishing a Kurdish paper, news in Kurdish are practices that are continuously curbed.

Article 22 of the Press law entitled, “Prevention, Destruction and Distortion of Printed works” says “…will be given imprisonment penalty up to one year and imposed heavy fine from one to five billion Liras.”

However, for so long now, access to Kurdish daily paper “Azadiya Welat” from within many prisons in Turkey is being prevented; and no investigations have been launched against those who perpetrate these arbitrary practices, and people are being deprived from having access to information and news in their mother tongues.

In such a case, the grievance is both for the reader and the paper; and the legitimate rights of (both real and legal) persons are being violated.

Article 28 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey regulates Freedom of Press. It says,– “The press is free, and shall not be censored. The establishment of a printing house shall not be subject to prior permission and to the deposit of a financial guarantee. The State shall take the necessary measures to ensure the freedom of the press and freedom of information.”

Again it is the same article, laying down the conditions applicable to prohibition. In fact, it is incomprehensible that a prevention is made without the decision of a judge.    

Article 29 of the Constitution says that the publication of periodicals or non-periodicals shall not be subject to prior authorization but only to notification.

The editor and honorary owner of Azadiya Welat -Vedat Kurşun- has been kept under arrest for quite a long time due to the news he prepared. At the end of the trial, he was imprisoned for a term of 3 years 11 months for making the propaganda of the organization via the news he prepared.

We know it very well that the penalty imposed on Kurşun, editor and honorary owner of Azadiya Welat, being the only daily printed in Kurdish language in Turkey, has actually been imposed on the Kurdish language. We also know it very well that dismissal of students from universities, their dormitories as well as the prevention of Kurdish papers into prisons, are again stemming from the Kurdish language.

We consider it a severe human right violation that access to information is curbed, and demand that the restrictions on the Kurdish language be immediately eliminated; thereby,  requirements stemming from being a democratic country be fulfilled.

Head of Diyarbakir Branch

Muharrem ERBEY, Attorney at Law

Source: Human Rights Association

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