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Even SpongeBob can’t escape Turkey’s post-coup crackdown

Turkey has shut down the country's first and only Kurdish-language channel for kids, dealing a blow to efforts to keep the children connected to their culture.

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — The Smurfs, Maya the Bee and SpongeBob SquarePants finally started speaking Kurdish in Turkey last year, courtesy of Zarok TV, the country’s first and only Kurdish-language channel for children. But their voices were silenced last week as the channel fell victim to the Turkish government's continued purging since the July 15 failed coup.

The station’s debut in March 2015 came as the latest in a series of hard-won cultural freedoms for Turkey’s Kurds who, until the early 1990s, were banned even from speaking their language. The channel was meant to be more than just a pastime for children, doubling as a vessel to teach them their mother tongue and help them maintain a bond with it.

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