Turkey condemns the Petition for the teaching of the Kurdish language

11/11/2002
Human Rights Commission

Statement on Item 11 : civil and political Rights. Oral statement by CETIM.



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[During its sitting on 21 May 2012, the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs took note of the fact that the two-year suspension of the CETIM’s consultative status would end in July 2012. During the same sitting, Turkey (which had requested this sanction against the CETIM) declared that it would not oppose the restitution of its status to the CETIM, while at the same time pointing out that the CETIM’s internet site continued to include declarations and litigious interventions, which, in the opinion of Turkey, “violate United Nations terminology”. Turkey thus demanded that the CETIM immediately take the necessary measures to adapt the contents of its website to United Nations terminology. Turkey also announced that it would “carefully follow the activities of the CETIM” and that it reserved the right to request again the withdrawal or suspension of the CETIM’s status in case of “further violations of Resolution 1996/31”.

In view of this, the CETIM would like to make the following explicit clarification:
In all declarations and interventions emanating from or supported by the CETIM regarding human rights violations in Turkey, the terms:

1. “Kurdistan” and “Turkish Kurdistan” (a legal entity recognized in Iraq and in Iran but not in Turkey), should read “Kurdish provinces of Turkey” or “southeastern provinces of Turkey”, and “Diyarbakir” will be designated the “capital” of these provinces;
2. “Kurdish guerrilla” and “Kurdish combatants” should read “non-state armed forces” or “illegal armed groups” (terms used in international documents and instruments”.

For further information, see the CETIM defense file concerning the complaint of Turkey against the CETIM before the NGO Committee of the United Nations in May 2010.]

Mr. Chairman,
The fundamental rights of the Kurdish people have been violated since the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The teaching of the Kurdish language in Turkey is forbidden by virtue of Article 42 of the Constitution . This ban on the Kurdish language remains in force even as the Turkish Government has authorized the use of all other languages, even foreign languages. The question is, therefore, one of human rights of a people who number between 15 and 20 million in Turkey. Far from considering the Kurdish language as an enrichment to the whole of society, the Turkish government considers it a threat and a danger to “national unity.”

Upon her return from her mission to Turkey, the Special Rapporteur, Katarina Tomasevsky, criticized the fact that the debate on the use of the Kurdish language in universities and other educational institutions is still dominated by a discourse on national security with no consideration at all for human rights. Thus, the right to be educated in the Kurdish language continues to be violated .

Despite its avowed commitment to ratify the two international covenants on human rights , the Turkish Government’s practice in this instance, in effect, contradicts its commitment.

In November 2001, over 12’000 Kurdish university students in Turkey launched a campaign and organized a petition demanding education in Kurdish in universities in the country.

Although the right of petition is recognized in Turkey in its Constitution (Article 47) as a legal form of expression, thousands of students who signed the petition were arrested along with their families. A number of them have been tortured or have suffered from inhumane treatment. A total of 143 students have been imprisoned .

In addition:
– three students who signed the petition were convicted to 3 years and 9 months in prison on the basis of Article 169 of the Turkish Penal Code, which condemns all “aid to an armed group “.

– fourty-six students were expelled from their university studies for life while 85 students were suspended for one year .

– fourteen teachers and directors who supported the petition were dismissed from work and another 422 students, teachers and university staff have been subjected to criminal proceedings .

To date, the wave of arrests continues. On the 27th of March 2002, the Turkish Police arrested some one hundred students who demonstrated in Istanbul demanding the right to be educated in the Kurdish language . On the 9th of April of this year, 325 students were arrested in Diyarbakir and 50 in Mersin for having sent a petition to the Turkish Parliament asking for a modification of Article 42 of the Constitution . At the same time, the police are present on a daily basis at universities in Istanbul and exercise continued surveillance over students and harassing them by taking pictures and filming them .

Mister Chairman,
In conclusion, we ask the Turkish Government to respect the fundamental rights of students and their families and ensure that its Constitution conforms to international legislation concerning human rights.

We also call on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate human rights violations committed against the Kurdish students and their families.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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