Wednesday, December 31, 2008


"I was slapped because I spoke Kurdish – I couldn’t even speak Turkish!"
~ Mehmed Uzun, speaking about his first day at school.

Hevallo is ending the year with a bit of absurdity and so will I. Somehow, it seems a fitting ending.

The bit of absurdity we're both referring to is TRT 6 or, as they call it in North Kurdistan, Korucu TV.

First of all, let's remember that Korucu TV (TRT 6) is illegal according to Turkish broadcasting law as laid out by the RTÜK (High Commission for Radio and Television). From Bianet:

“If the ruling party wants to make a contribution that promotes the freedoms then it should revise the article in the Constitution that regulates broadcasting in local languages.”

Ahmet Birsin, broadcasting coordinator for the “Gün Radio-TV”, thinks that forming a Kurdish TV channel in the Turkish Radio and Television (TRT), TRT 6, is an investment by the government for the coming elections.

According to the regulations of the Supreme Council of the Radio and Television (RTÜK), the TV channels can broadcast in local languages only four hours a day and they need to have subtitles in Turkish. Birsin told bianet that the TRT 6 is planning to broadcast in Kurdish 24 hours a day and there were no subtitles in the test broadcasting. He thinks that if they are not going to revise the law and thus the regulations, then this will mean no positive contribution for the private channels that broadcast in Kurdish.

Not only is there a restriction on the amount of hours per week that local-language programming may be aired, but educational programming that teaches Kurdish language is forbidden (here, p. 22). These rules date back, at least, to 2003. In addition to the absurdity of Kurdish language being used illegally by the state on Korucu TV (TRT 6), we also have the absurdity of the same Kurdish language being referred to as an "unknown language" by the TBMM:

The Democratic Society Party, or DTP, submitted a motion to Parliament on Friday in relation to the incident that Kurdish was defined in parliamentary records as an "unknown language."

[ . . . ]

"Are there categories as known and unknown languages in our legislation? If there are, what is the legal base for this? What is meant by unknown language? " DTP Şırnak deputy Hasip Kaplan asked Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan. "You know that Azerbaijan President İlham Aliyev’s speech, which he delivered in the Parliament’s General Assembly, was recorded in Azerbeijani dialect. Taking into consideration two different approaches toward Kurdish and Azerbaijani languages, do you not think that rather than constitutional Turkish identity, ethnic Turkish identity is given priority?" he asked.

Özgür Gündem has taken notice of the absurdity, too:

Kurdish is banned for Kurds but free for the state

In Turkey, according to law, the letters W, Q and X are on the banned letter list. While on bayram celebration days primarily DTP mayors and thousands of people were punished for using these letters in greeting cards and signs on the streets, PM Erdoğan violated this law by giving a statement to TRT's Kurdish channel.

There is no ban on Mehmetçik-media

PM Erdoğan's video message to TRT 6, which will broadcast in Kurdish, said "TRT 6 bi xer be", came out on most of the Turkish dailies' front pages. While most of the newspapers picked the Kurdish phrase for their headlines, this recalls the Kurdish boy called Welat, who was not allowed to enter Turkey at Atatürk Airport because of the first letter of his name. However, according to officials and laws, the letters W, Q, and X are still banned. In several places because these letters are considered as "organization propaganda" [i.e. the big bad PKK], thousands of people faced penalties. For putting greeting message signs on the streets, primarily the DTP mayors and several people's cases are still ongoing in the courts.

Newspapers' "unknown language" mistakes

Another important point in today's dailies is the usage of the letters. To the extent the two big newspapers of the Doğan Group put the same headline with an extra X. While the Star newspaper came out with the headline of "TRT şeş bi xêr be". Radikal came out with the headline, "TRT Şeş bi xwêr be" Both, however, were written incorrectly. Primarily Sabah, Milliyet, Hürriyet, Taraf, Akşam, Zaman, and all the other dailies had such mistakes in addition to violating the law by using the banned letters. Despite the prime minister and newspapers violating the law, in the birth registration departments, the names which include such letters are still not being registered and the parents cannot give the names they want to their children.

I also found Hürriyet's English translation of "bi xêr be" amusing:

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan recorded his message to be broadcast on TRT 6 in Turkish and then in Kurdish said, "TRT Şeş bi xw?r be" (Let TRT 6 be beneficial).

It looks like they're translating literally.

And, while Ahmet Birsin, quoted in the Bianet article above, believes, with reason, that Korucu TV is a campaign tactic for the AKP, I have no doubt that it is also an attempt to steal viewership away from Roj TV:

Analysts say the state-run news channel is aimed at taking viewers from the Kurdish Roj TV, a satellite station based in Belgium that is popular with many of the country's estimated 14 million Kurds but has angered Turkey for broadcasting statements by rebel commanders.

[ . . . ]

Turkey is seeking to weaken the rebels who have criticized the government for a lack of broadcasts in the Kurdish language, said Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst based at the Economic Policy Research Institute in Ankara and an expert on the rebel group.

"Turkey is changing its policy on Kurdish language broadcasts to cut support to the rebels and create an alternative to the Roj TV," said Ozcan.

Turkey is not changing its policy; it's just running Korucu TV illegally. And good luck with stealing viewers from Roj TV; it's going to be very hard to pull viewers away from news about the activities of their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nephews, nieces, and cousins in the mountains. With all the atrocities committed against the Kurdish people by the AKP government in the last six years, and the reception Katil Erdoğan received recently in The Southeast, let's hope Korucu TV is a huge campaign fail for AKP.

By the way, Happy New Year to Rastî readers and the other Kurdish bloggers out there.

Ser Sala Hewe Pîroz Bît û Yeni Yılınız Kutlu Olsun!


Anonymous said...

Sersala te jî pîroz be Xwî$ka hêja!
Bi hêvîya serkevtinên mezin di sala 2009 da...


Anonymous said...

I am in North Kurdistan and Turkey and have never heard people call TRT 6 as Korucu TV. Not sure why you are wanting to translate jaş into Turkish because jaş TV is what people have called it.

Also your new year greeting is not how we say in Kurdish, you write like someone from Dohuk saying Pîroz Bît. Maybe you are learning Kurdish from a teacher from Dohuk and not North Kurdistan.

Sersala te pîroz be

Mizgîn said...

Yeni yıl kutlamasının Kürtçe başka nasıl söylendiğini sen bana söyle de ben öğreneyim dostum.

Dohuktaki birinden bahsederken sanırım onun da hemen kuzeyindeki akrabaları olan biz Kuzey Kürdistanlılarla aynı dili konuştuklarını biliyor olman lazım.

Neyse yeni yılın kutlu olsun.

Anonymous said...

I was in Istanbul staying in a hotel in Taksim and was randomly switching the channels when I heard Kerdogan say "Trt 6 bi xer be" in a horrible Turkish accent.

It literally sent shivers up my spine. After listening to the news, I learned of the 24 hour Kurdish channel.

My gut reaction is that it is a big symbolic step. Let me say why...

I had just come to my room after asking the usually helpful person at the front desk the distance between Diyarbakir and Batman and instead of his usually helpful suggestions, he gave me a cold stare and nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders.

I had spent a week in Istanbul and had rarely heard anyone speak in Kurdish (aside from the simit & Kestane street vendors and only when they were not too busy yelling "buyyyyyrun" or "bilira bilira biliraaaaaaa"). Sure, I was in Taksim, but it felt like no Kurds lived in Istanbul. I heard people speak Greek, English, Arabic, Spanish, but rarely Kurdish.

Only after midnight did I hear a Kurdish song played publicly in a merchant's shop (the ones that sell scarves & mitts for five or ten liras) or in some of the small, dark "turku"-bars -- and invariably always the same songs "agir ketiye dile min", "cane cane", agire jiyan's "Helin", "hey mercan" & other Koma Amed songs.

When I told Turks I was from "Diyarbekir" a few times I was actually told "olsun canim" ("that's ok") with an approving smile. In each instance, I felt as though my "admission" was akin to admitting that my cancer was in remission. This, despite the fact that I'm female, I look like a Westerner, and my Turkish accent is not a Kurdish one but an English one. I can only imagine the psychology of a Kurd trying to assert his Kurdish identity.

The official Kurdish television will, I hope, help in breaking the taboos surrounding the Kurdish language and culture. If it accomplishes nothing, then atleast it proves that if Kerdogan can go on national television and break Turkish national law, surely, Kurds ought to as well.