“Turkish people” vs. “people of Turkey”

So my blog seems to be turning into a blog about Turkish blogger Mustafa Akyol. This is another post of his about a speech a Turkish general recently gave. In the speech, the general referred to “the people of Turkey” instead of the customary “Turkish people”. This seems like a minor semantic difference, but it has major implications, especially in a country as nationalist as Turkey. “Turkish people” implies an ethnicity, whereas “people of Turkey” is a much broader definition that encompasses Turkish citizens of minority ethnicities.

The speech created a controversy because Turkey likes to pretend that there are no ethnic minorities in Turkey (the fun example about there being no Kurds in Turkey, only “mountain Turks” comes to mind). Thus, the general’s speech implied that there was room for ethnic diversity in the modern Turkish state. Shocking!

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 10:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Mass Killings of Turkish Kurds

Especially considering my last post about the importance of calling attention to acts of genocide, I found this post by a Turkish blogger especially relevant. Apparently, bones have started turning up in Turkey from the mass killings of Kurds in the 1990s. The killings were carried out by the Gendarme Intelligence Service, or JITEM, which is widely believed to have been an arm of the Turkish military. However, the Turkish government now denies that the JITEM ever existed, despite accounts that it killed about 17,500 Kurds in the 1990s. These killings weren’t genocide, as the victims were not killed simply because they were Kurds, but because they had or were suspected of having ties to the PKK. Often, though, people were killed simply for having a relative in the PKK or for giving aide to PKK guerrillas (even though the guerrillas might have killed them if they refused).

Anyway, I can’t help but wonder if the complete lack of consequences for the Armenian genocide emboldened the Turkish government. If nothing happened when one million innocent Armenian men, women, and children were killed, then what was to stop the government from killing a few thousand men who did have ties (however nebulous) to the PKK? Definitely worth thinking about.

Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 8:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The status of Kurdish in Turkey

Recently, a Turkish member of parliament, Ahmet Turk, caused a huge controversy by speaking a few words of Kurdish during a parliamentary session to celebrate “International Mother Tongue Day”. It is illegal in Turkey to speak any language other than Turkish in an official governmental capacity, so Turks actions were illegal. Despite the obvious problems with freedom of expression in this issue, the news is not all bad.

In 1994, several MPs were arrested for attempting to take their oaths of office in Kurdish. By contrast, it appears that no disciplinary action will be taken against Turk. So while the law banning other languages is still on the books, at least enforcement is not as stringent as it once was. The government TV station airing the session of parliament was immediately cut, though, as soon as Turk started speaking Kurdish. While the government is perhaps no longer as willing to arrest people right and left in order to silence them, it still has a vested interest in attempting to control the message its citizens hear. In this case, language itself is the message, and according to the government the only language that “real” Turks speak is Turkish.

This is an interesting take on the topic by a Turkish blogger. He is sympathetic to the plight of Turkish Kurds, but also wary of any elements of Kurdish nationalism.

Published in: on March 2, 2009 at 12:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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