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Turkey’s Kurds revive fight for language rights

Many Kurdish groups have joined forces to promote the Kurdish language and press Ankara for greater language rights.
ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP via Getty Images
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DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Kurdish language rights have been a steadfast demand of the Kurdish political movement in Turkey, where many Kurds, especially young people in urban areas, remain alienated from their heritage language. Ankara, which banned Kurds from even speaking their native language until the early 1990s, relaxed the restrictions in the ensuing years, but key demands such as education in Kurdish and the recognition of Kurdish as an official language remain unanswered. Kurdish parties and civic groups have revived efforts on the issue in recent months while encouraging Kurds to learn their heritage language, a cause that has united Kurds of various stripes, from conservatives to secular leftists.

In mid-October, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the standard-bearer of the Kurdish movement in Turkey, held ceremonies at its head office in Ankara and elsewhere for an unusual purpose – to award certificates to party members who had graduated from Kurdish language courses launched as part of the recent campaign.

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