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,www.ekurd.net
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,www.ekurd.net
remain on the use of letters in the Kurdish alphabet
such as w, q, and x, which are absent in the Turkish
"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
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,"
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
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
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
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
** 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
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 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"
North Kurdistan (