Turkish assimilation against Kurdish culture continue
by Rojan Hazim*
As a country, Kurdistan is occupied and annexed by the Republic of Turkey as a colony, and the Kurdish people are currently persecuted within the framework of this racist and conservative system. This suffices in explaining the actual situation at hand. Accordingly, our field of analysis is a political situation where Kurdistan and the Kurdish peoples are penalized by way of restrictions and sanctions on geography, language, and culture. This is the status of Kurds in Turkey. In the duration of the talk I will be delivering today, the most frequent words you will hear, will be “forbidden” and “oppression”. This may seem repetitive and displeasing; however it is the current political reality which we are witnessing. The current session’s subject is that of “cultural rights”. For any people, polity or community, cultural rights are its foundation, its cause for existence and its natural rights.
Of the entire mosaic which lies at the foundation of Kurdish culture: the traditional national clothing, Kurdish cuisine, Kurdish music, theatre and arts in general herein folklore, customary dances, poems, epics and sagas, and even sports types, we have seen decisive Turkification and assimilation practices by the dominant official language and culture in Turkey.
In today’s Turkey, the on-going operation of a Kurdish television channel is no insurance of the Turkish state being lax on the issue of assimilation. On the contrary, the state-owned Kurdish channel serves the function of removing the on-going interpretation and reproduction of Kurdish language and culture out of the hands of the Kurdish communities and into the hands of the Turkish state. Consequently, the Turkish state has created its own space for interpretation of Kurdish culture and are using it as a vehicle for furthering the government’s own world views. Through these numerous bans and sanctions, the Turkish state has effectively cut the arteries and veins and obstructed the blood circulation of the cultural body politic, and accordingly bringing an entire nation to the brink of devastation. The heavy-handed language and culture policies enacted by the Turkish state are paving the way for assimilation and genocide.
Today, the Kurds are subject to the likes of the same genocidal policies employed by the Turkish state in the 20th century against various peoples’ in those same areas. This has been continuous state policy since the inception of the Turkish state. Sources of this state policy practice can be found in the Eastern Reform Plan of 1925. In this context, the seemingly neutral term ‘reform’ was used by state officials in the more stern sense of ‘disciplinary action`. The Black Report of 1936 had the same disciplinary and regulatory purpose. Of course, many more reports were written. With these policies, Kurds were displaced from the ancestral lands and massacres committed.
The demographic composition of Kurdistan is being altered through forced state policies. Citizen are being displaced and forced to migrate. As is ostensibly the Turkish state’s objective, the Kurds are sought displaced and resettled away from their ancestral lands. Currently, Syrian refugees and migrants of Arab and Turkmen descent are being relocated to the Kurdish areas in order to enact a shift in the demographic composition of the areas.
Under the guise of archeological surveys, precious and historic artefacts are being dispossessed and relocated from Kurdish lands. Under the guise of innovation, river dams are being built upon the rivers of Kurdistan, which are flooding historic human settlements, historical architecture, crops which are the lifeline of local villagers and other roots of the Kurdish culture. By forcibly displacing the local population and sending them to western Turkey, local histories are vanishing and sources of cultural history are vanishing.
The green areas of Kurdistan, the forests, mountain tops, fields have been devastated. And with them, the cultural signifiers they represented and livelihoods they protected have vanished. The ancient modes of life such as nomadic, seasonal migration and the socio-economical structures which have colored the history of the Kurdish people, are vanishing.
The Turkish state does not fulfil its responsibilities and obligations of international conventions in terms of language and cultural rights. But this issue needs to be resolved in some way.
For this reason, despite of all their sufferings, Kurds need to adhere to international law and treaties in the short term and urgently create a legal foundation for the consistent and institutionalized pursuit of a settlement in the name of a solution. Similarly, Kurds must respect the basic rights of the people neighboring with the Turkish people whose primary language and cultural rights come and respect they want the rights to form the full legal and legal ground necessary for a permanent and practical life.
Furthermore, the Kurdish language and culture is part of universal cultural heritage. At first, the United Nations and its affiliated institutions UNECSO and UNICEF should stand firm in support of the cultures which are threatened by destructive forces. The future of any community is its children. And the future of the Kurds is dependent on its children obtaining knowledge of their own language and culture. This calls upon UNICEF, an organization created with the intent of protecting the rights of children, and UNESCO, which works for raising the standards for education in cultural and linguistic affairs of nations, to engage with the Turkish state on this issue.
What we are seeing, which is sought eradicated, is part of world culture. Therefore, it is the right of the Kurdish peoples to call upon the UN, UNICEF, UNESCO and the European Union’s affiliated language and culture boards to act against this state practice.
Cultural rights are collective rights. And if sought enhanced through an organized, systematized and official program, these rights can be used to create a healthy foundation for an ethnic community. For Kurds, these conditions are not present yet. And if these conditions do not materialize soon, it will be detrimental for Kurds as an ethnic community. The Turkish state is perpetrating this injustice against the Kurds and thus violating the Kurds’ fundamental and universal rights. Thus, it is guilty of human rights violations. The Turkish state does not listen to the Kurds’ cry for freedom nor the humanitarian and democratic world’s warnings and advices. Therefore, it is the humanitarian duty of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal on Turkey and the Kurds to respond to the Turkish State with a sanction appropriate to its current practices with the aim of ending these inhuman policiesand seeking a settlement with the Kurds. In the name of my people, I kindly ask this from you.
*Rojan Hazim is a Kurdish author and teacher from Denmark. Apart from giving lectures on the Kurdish language and culture, he does research and writes on the political life in Kurdistan. This is the shortened version of his speech (Cultural Rights of the Kurdish people in Turkey) which he held during the Permanent Peoples Tribunal on Turkey and the Kurds on 15-16th March 2018 in Paris.