Human Rights Victory For Kurds
Human Rights Victory For Kurds 
Jon Gorvett 
The Times Educational Supplement 
Aug. 9, 2002 
International; No.4483
In a landmark decision, Turkey's parliament voted last 
Friday to legalise teaching of the Kurdish language. Human 
rights activists hope this may pave the way to full mother-
tongue education for the country's 12 million ethnic Kurds. 
After a rowdy all-night session of parliament, all parties 
voted in favour except the largest -the rightist National 
Action Party. They condemned those supporting the change as 
The new law will allow Turkey's 375 private language 
schools to offer Kurdish along with English and other 
"This is positive," said Hasan Kaya of Istanbul's Kurdish 
Education and Culture Institute. "Until now even the 
existence of the Kurdish language was being denied." But, 
while welcoming the change, Kurdish groups want the 
government to go further and allow Kurdish-medium state 
Kurdish was outlawed in Turkey following the 1980 military 
coup.Its leaders denied that people such as Kurds even 
existed. Despite the fact that Turkish and Kurdish are very 
different -the former is a Ural-Asiatic tongue, the latter 
Indo-European -as late as last year prime minister Bulent 
Ecevit felt able to declare that there was "no such thing" 
as a Kurdish language. 
The new move comes alongside a package of measures designed 
to bring Turkey into harmony with the European Union, which 
it badly wants to join. It also comes at the effective end 
of a 17-year conflict between Kurdish guerrillas and the 
Turkish army, in which more than 35,000 people have died.  
Many pupils and parents began protests against the ban on 
Kurdish education at the end of last year. Some are still 
in prison.