Kurds in Turkey

The Kurds in Turkey (Kurdish: "Kurdên li Tirkiye", Turkish: "Türkiye'deki Kürtler") are an Indo-European people first mentioned in ancient Greek sources. [Anabasis, transl. by C.L. Brownson, Loeb Classical Library, 1922, rev. 1989, ISBN, 0-67499101-X Expeditio Cyri, ed. by E.C. Marchant, Oxford Classical Texts, Oxford 1904, ISBN 0-19-814554-3] Based on these sources it is believed that Kurds are remnants of ancient Cordueni who established an ancient Kingdom near modern-day Diyarbakir in the first century BC. Cordueni were under the cultural and religious influence of Hurrian. Most Kurds live in Turkey, where their numbers are estimated somewhere between 11,400,000] As a result the fighting is limited to approximately 3000 fighters. [cite news|url=http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2007-10/19/content_6192126.htm
title=Turkish forces on high alert against PKK attacks
publisher=China Daily


The Kurdish culture in Turkey is allegedly close to culture of Kurdish people in other regions and it has contributed greatlyFact|date=September 2007 to the culture in Turkey. However, culturally Kurds in Turkey are much more closer to Turks since they share a common history and cultural background.Fact|date=November 2007


The Kurdish language belongs to the western sub-group of the Iranian languages which belong to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family.

Many Kurds in Turkey speak only Turkish, but about 5 million people speak a Kurdish language (7-8% of the total population). There are 3,950,000 people speaking Northern Kurdish (1980 estimate), 1 million people speaking Dimli (1999 estimate) and 140,000 people speaking Kirmanjki. Speakers of Kirmanjki and Dimli are also known as the Zaza people. [ [http://www.lmp.ucla.edu/Profile.aspx?LangID=61&menu=004 UCLA Language Materials Project Language Profiles Page ] ] The two Zaza languages have a 70% lexical similarity to each other, about the same as is found between Spanish and Romanian. [ [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=spa Ethnologue report for language code:spa ] ]


Between 1925 and 1991 the performance or recording of songs in the Kurdish language was banned in Turkey. Some singers, like İbrahim Tatlıses and Ahmet Kaya, sang in Turkish, while others like Grup Yorum violated the ban and were imprisoned or fled to various countries, especially Germany. A black market, however, has long existed in Turkey, and pirate radio stations and underground recordings have always been available. Though there is no current ban on performing Kurdish language music, it is effectively prevented from being broadcast on radio or television through censorship systems. [Yurdatapan, Şanar. 2004. "Turkey: Censorship past and present." In "Shoot the singer! Music censorship today," edited by Marie Korpe. London: Zed Books. ISBN 1842775057.]

Some of the foremost figures in Kurdish classical music of the past century from Anatolia include Mihemed 'Arif Cizrawî (1912 - 1986), Hesen Cizrawî, Şeroyê Biro, 'Evdalê Zeynikê, Si'îd Axayê Cizîrî and the female singers Miryem Xanê and Eyşe Şan.

Şivan Perwer is a composer, vocalist and tembûr player. He concentrates mainly on political and nationalistic music - of which he is considered the founder in Kurdish music - as well as classical and folk music.

Another important Kurdish musician from Turkey is Nizamettin Arıç (Feqiyê Teyra). He began with singing in Turkish, and made his directorial debut and also stars in Klamek ji bo Beko (A Song for Beko), one of the first films in Kurdish. Arıç rejected musical stardom at the cost of debasing his language and culture. As a result of singing in Kurdish, he was imprisoned, and then obliged to flee to Syria and eventually to Germany. [cite web|url=http://www.creativeworkfund.org/modern/bios/chingiz_sadikhov.html
title=Chingiz Sadykhov
publisher=Creative Work Fund
] [ [http://www.filmlinc.com/archive/wrt/programs/6-97/hrw/hrw.htm 1997 human rights watch international film festival] ]


There is no existing evidence of Kurdish literature of pre-Islamic period. Some sources consider Ali Hariri (1425-1495) as the first well-known poet who wrote in Kurdish. He was from the Hakkari region.

Since the 1970s, there has been a massive effort on the part of Kurds in Turkey to write and to create literary works in Kurdish. The amount of printed material during the last three decades has increased enormously. Many of these activities were centered in Europe particularly Sweden and Germany where many of the immigrant Kurds are living. There are a number of Kurdish publishers in Sweden, partly supported by the Swedish Government. More than two hundred Kurdish titles have appeared in the 1990s.

Some of the well known contemporary Kurdish writers from Turkey are Mehmed Uzun, Mehmed Emin Bozarslan, Mahmud Baksi, Hesenê Metê and Rojen Barnas.


Yılmaz Güney was a famous film director, scenarist, novelist and actor. He directed and starred in the film Umut (1970) (Turkish for "Hope"), and his most famous movie is 1982 film Yol (Turkish for "The Road" or "The Way"), which won Palme d'Or in Cannes Film Festival in 1982.

Some other films by Kurdish people in Turkey are Hejar (aka "Big Man, Little Love") by Handan İpekçi and Klamek ji bo Beko by Nizamettin Arıç.

Yılmaz Erdoğan is another famous film director, screenwriter, poet and actor from Turkey of Kurdish ethnicity.

Human rights of Kurdish people in Turkey

Turkey's treatment of its citizens of Kurdish ethnicity has been a frequent subject of international criticism. Since 1930s, Kurds have resisted the forcible assimilation and Turkification policies of the Turkey's government. Since 1984, these resistance movements included both peaceful political activities for basic civil rights for Kurds within Turkey and also a violent armed rebellion for a separate Kurdistan state.

Due to the size of the Kurdish population and the existence of separatist movements the government's main strategy for assimilating the Kurds has been language suppression, yet a majority of Kurds have retained their native language. [cite book | last = Metz | first = Helen | title = Turkey, a Country Study | publisher = The Division | location = Columbus | year = 1996 | isbn = 0844408646 |url=http://countrystudies.us/turkey/28.htm|pages=28|quote=Kurds] Use of Kurdish language in public was banned in 1983, during Kenan Evren's presidency in Turkey. The ban was lifted in 1991 during the presidency of Turgut Özal who was of partial Kurdish descent. [cite web |url=http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC07.php?CID=299 |title=Three Legacies: Ataturk, Inonu, and Ozal and the Making of the U.S.-Turkish Relationship |accessdate=2007-09-12 |work= Turgut Ozal Memorial Lectures |last=Edelman|first=Eric|authorlink=Eric Edelman|date=2006-06-19] Turkish remains the only official language, and use of any other language as a first language is not allowed in schools.

In June 2004, Turkey's public television TRT began broadcasting a half-an-hour Kurdish program, [cite news |title=Kurdish broadcast ends Turkish TV taboo |url= http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200406/s1128444.htm |work= ABC News Online|id= |date=2004-06-10|accessdate=2007-09-12 ] and on March 8, 2006, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) allowed two TV channels (Gün TV and Söz TV) and one radio channel (Medya FM) to have a limited service in the Kurdish language. This legislation came into force as an effort to meet one of the European Union’s requirements for its membership talks with Turkey. The new regulation will give radios five, and televisions four weekly broadcast hours. [cite news|work=NTV-MSNBC|url=http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/news/362107.asp|date=2006-02-21|accessdate=2007-09-12 |language= Turkish|quote=English summary: [http://www.tusiad.us/specific_page.cfm?CONTENT_ID=584 Private Channels to Broadcast in Kurdish in March] |title=Yerel kanallarda Kürtçe Mart’ta]

Despite these reforms, use of Kurdish in public sphere and government institutions are still severely restricted. On June 14, 2007, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reached a decision to remove the elected mayor of the Sur district of Diyarbakir, Abdullah Demirbaş and the elected members of the municipal council. The high court endorsed the decision of the ministry and ruled that "giving information on various municipal services such as culture, art, environment, city cleaning and health in languages other than Turkish is against the Constitution.cite news |first=Joost |last= Lagendijk|authorlink= Joost Lagendijk|title= Kurdish: A different language|url= http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=115171&bolum=109 |work=Today's Zaman|date= 2007-06-28|accessdate=2007-09-12]

This is despite the fact that according to the above mentioned municipality, 72 percent of the people of the district used Kurdish in their daily lives. In another case, the mayor of the Diyarbakır, Osman Baydemir, is being subjected to a similar set of interrogations and judicial process. His case is related to use of the Kurdish phrase "Sersala We Pîroz Be" (Happy New Year) in the new year celebration cards issued by the municipality. The prosecutor wrote: "It was determined that the suspect used a Kurdish sentence in the celebration card, ‘Sersala We Piroz Be’ (Happy New Year). I, on behalf of the public, demand that he be punished under Article 222/1 of the Turkish Penal Code".

The Turkish Constitution bans the formation of political parties on an ethnic basis. Several Kurdish political parties were shut down by the Turkish Constitutional Court for links to the PKK, and some party members were imprisoned. PKK is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by a number of states and organizations, including the USA, NATO and the EU.

Kurdish internally displaced people (IDP) in Turkey

Between 1984 and 1999 the PKK and the Turkish military engaged in open war, and much of the countryside in the southeast was depopulated, with Kurdish civilians moving to local defensible centers such as Diyarbakır, Van, and Şırnak, as well as to the cities of western Turkey and even to western Europe. The causes of the depopulation included PKK atrocities against Kurdish clans they could not control, the poverty of the southeast, and the Turkish state's military operations.cite journal
doi = 10.1016/S0030-4387(00)00057-0
author = Radu, Michael
journal = Orbis
volume = 45
issue = 1
pages = 47–63
year = 2001
title = The Rise and Fall of the Pkk
accessdate = 2008-06-30
issn = 0030-4387
publisher= Foreign Policy Research Institute
oclc= 93642482
] Human Rights Watch has documented many instances where the Turkish military forcibly evacuated villages, destroying houses and equipment to prevent the return of the inhabitants. An estimated 3,000 Kurdish villages in Turkey were virtually wiped from the map, representing the displacement of more than 378,000 people. [cite web|url= http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/turkey0305/3.htm#_Toc97005223 |title=Still critical |publisher=Human Rights Watch|accessdate=2007-09-12|year=2005 |month=March |volume=17|issue=2|page=3]

Leyla Zana

In 1994 Leyla Zana—who, three years prior, had been the first Kurdish woman elected to the Turkish parliament—was sentenced to 15 years for "separatist speech". At her inauguration as an MP, she reportedly identified herself as a Kurd. She took the oath of loyalty in Turkish, as required by law, then added in Kurdish, "I have completed this formality under duress. I shall struggle so that the Kurdish and Turkish peoples may live together in a democratic framework." [cite web
title=Racism and the administration of justice
publisher=Amnesty International
] Parliament erupted with shouts of 'Separatist', 'Terrorist', and 'Arrest her'".

Village guard paramilitary system

Village guards militia was set up and armed by the Turkish state around 1984 to combat PKK. The militia comprises local Kurds and it has around 58,000 members. Some of the village guards are fiercely loyal to the Turkish state. The European Commission has described "Village Guards" as one of the major obstacles to the return of displaced Kurds to their villages. Human rights organizations have also criticized the village guard system for its negative effects in creating an atmosphere of mistrust. [cite news |first= Meriel |last= Beattie |title= Local guards divide Turkish Kurds |url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5246068.stm |work = BBC News |accessdate=2007-09-12|date=2006-08-04]

ee also

List of Kurdish people


* cite journal
doi = 10.1163/1570060001569893
last = Olson
first = Robert
journal = Die Welt des Islams
volume = 40
issue = 1
pages = 67–94
year = 2000
title = The Kurdish Rebellions of Sheikh Said (1925), Mt. Ararat (1930), and Dersim (1937-8): Their Impact on the Development of the Turkish Air Force and on Kurdish and Turkish Nationalism
accessdate = 2008-06-30

Further reading

* Ihsan Nuri Pasha, "La Révolte de L'Agridagh", with a preface by Ismet Cheriff Vanly, Éditions Kurdes, Geneva, 1985. (translated into Turkish: "Ağrı Dağı İsyanı", Med Publications, Istanbul, 1992.)
* Kristiina Koivunen, [http://ethesis.helsinki.fi/julkaisut/val/sospo/vk/koivunen/theinvis.pdf The Invisible War in North Kurdistan] , PhD Thesis, University of Helsinki, 2002, ISBN 952-10-0644-7.

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