Turkey's Kurdish separatist guerillas, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), officially ended a five-year truce in June, and eastern Turkey has since seen a series of bombings and skirmishes. Most recently, five Turkish soldiers died after a bomb blast ripped through a busy street in the town of Semdinli, Hakkari province, near the border with Iran and Iraq, on Aug. 5. (Turkish Weekly, Aug. 6)
The PKK truce came in response to Turkish commitments to respect Kurdish language and cultural rights in the region. There are now signs that recent progress in this area is being reversed. While Kurdish is still not allowed to be taught in state schools (even in Kurdish-majority regions), authorities changed the law in 2002 to allow it to be taught in private schools. Now the directors of Turkey's eight privately-owned Kurdish-language schools have announced that they are closing them due to bureaucratic hurdles, and in response to popular Kurdish demands for the language to be part of the regular curriculum at state schools in the region. "We took this decision because of…the request for education in the mother tongue at schools," said Suleyman Yilmaz, Kurdish school director in Diyarbakir. He said the price of private schools, which receive no government support, put them beyond the means of most students. He also said that while it takes two or three months for most private schools to obtain government permits, it can take up to 18 months for the government to grant permits for Kurdish-language schools. As recently as 1991 it was illegal to even speak Kurdish. (AP, Aug. 1)
In another sign of growing polarization, Ridvan Kizgin, chairman of the Human Rights Association (IHD) in the province of Bingol, was fined 1,112 lira (US$800) by the Bingol Governorship for using "Cewlik," the Kurdish name for the province, in an official document.
Kizgin had written a letter to the Bingol governor and the Interior Ministry on June 29, discussing the issue of ongoing military operations in the area. He signed it on behalf of "The IHD Bingol (Cewlik) Office." Kizgin was charged with breaking paragraph 31 of the "Associations Law," which mandates that all documents from official associations must be written in Turkish. Kizgin is challenging the fine before the courts. (Dozame.org Kurdish new service, Aug. 1)
The war in Turkish Kurdistan has claimed some 37,000 lives since the PKK first took up arms in 1984. See our last post on the PKK.
PKK official website: