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 Turkey's Kurdish TV channel opens to mixed reviews 

 Source : Reuters | Agencies
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Turkey's Kurdish TV channel opens to mixed reviews  2.1.2009

January 2, 2009

DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of Turkey, Turkey has launched its first 24-hour Kurdish-language TV station in what the government called a democratic new era for minority Kurds.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan extended best wishes in once-banned Kurdish, but some Kurdish politicians criticised the New Year launch of state-run TRT 6 as a ploy to woo voters ahead of March local elections.

Some viewers were concerned that programming would become state propaganda, underscoring scepticism in a region scarred by decades of violence and poverty.

Turkey, which aspires to join the European Union, has been under pressure to expand cultural and political rights of its estimated 20 million Kurds.

Kurdish was banned following a 1980 military coup until 1991. Under pressure from the EU, TRT began broadcasting documentaries and news in Kurdish in 2004, but only for about 30 minutes each week. TRT 6 will be broadcast for 24 hours a day, but bans remain on the use of letters in the Kurdish alphabet such as w, q, and x, which are absent in the Turkish language.

"The launch of TRT 6 is important for the development of the Kurdish language. I remember when even listening to Kurdish music was a crime," said Ahmet Cihan, a 29-year old shopkeeper in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the Kurdish southeast (Turkey Kurdistan).

Officials said the station will air news, films, soaps and talk shows, dubbed in Kurdish, as well as video clips by Kurdish artists.

"If the aim of the channel is propaganda then the government will lose, but if it pursues an independent policy then people will watch it. If it is not impartial Kurds would feel deceived," said Cemil Genc, a 32-year-old self-employed man.

Erdogan, whose ruling AK Party is hoping to make strong inroads in the Kurdish southeast in March local elections, said the channel will help Kurds feel more included in Turkey.

"This is a step which will strengthen our democracy," Erdogan said in a pre-recorded message in which he uttered: "TRT ses bi xer be" (Best wishes to TRT 6) in Kurdish.

Selahattin Demirtas, an MP for the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the largest Kurdish party, said the channel had political aims. The DTP and AKP have traded bitter words as polls near.

"Even the singers invited to the opening ceremony were chosen because they are DTP opponents," Demirtas said.

Despite some progress, the use of the Kurdish language is still banned in parliament and in political campaigning.

According to media reports, DTP lawmakers are working on a draft law to allow the use of q, w and x -- letters used in Kurdish but not in Turkish -- in official correspondence, a move which would incur the wrath of nationalists.

Kurdish lawmaker Sirri Sakik dismissed the project as a "cosmetic" gesture ahead of local elections in March, in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) hopes to take control of major Kurdish-held municipalities in the southeast. Turkey Kurds say Erdogan's economic package not enough to solve Kurdish issue.

"There is no political debate about this channel. The government wants to use it for propaganda," Sakik, a senior member of the Democratic Society Party, Turkey's main Kurdish political movement, told AFP.

Turkish authorities hope the new station will help erode the popularity of the Kurdish Denmark-based ROJ TV, which continues to broadcast despite Ankara's vigorous protests to Copenhagen that the channel is a mouthpiece of the Turkeys' separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Kurdish Denmark-based ROJ TV is the most popular Kurdish TV among Kurds in southeastern Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan).

Since 1984 the Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) took up arms for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan). A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels. Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority.

The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas,
the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.

The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union,
but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

Copyright, respective author or news agency, Reuters | Agencies  

** Kurds are not recognized as an official minority in Turkey and are denied rights granted to other minority groups. Under EU pressure, Turkey recently granted Kurds limited rights for broadcasts and education in the Kurdish language, but critics say the measures do not go far enough.

The use of the term "Kurdistan" is vigorously rejected due to its alleged political implications by the Republic of Turkey, which does not recognize the existence of a "Turkish Kurdistan" Southeast Turkey.

Others estimate over 40 million Kurds live in Big Kurdistan (Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia), which covers an area as big as France, about half of all Kurds which estimate to 20 million live in Turkey.

Turkey is home to 25 million ethnic Kurds, a large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK for a Kurdish homeland in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.

Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish language, prohibiting the language in education and broadcast media. The Kurdish alphabet is still not recognized in Turkey, and use of the Kurdish letters X, W, Q which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet has led to judicial persecution in 2000 and 2003

The Kurdish flag flown officially in Iraqi Kurdistan but unofficially flown by Kurds in Armenia. The flag is banned in Iran, Syria, and Turkey where flying it is a criminal offence" 

Southeastern Turkey: North Kurdistan ( Kurdistan-Turkey) wikipedia    


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