As you all know, in October 2006, our Sur Municipality approved a council decision to provide municipal services in other languages along with Turkish in the areas such as culture, arts, environmental awareness and tourism. The aforementioned council decision was taken in the light of a widely representative public survey undertaken by the Municipal Directorate of Cultural and Social Affairs. Revealing the multilingual and multicultural character of the Surici district, survey results indicated that 24% of the local residents spoke Turkish in daily life, 72% spoke Kurdish, 1% spoke Arabic and 3% spoke Syriac and Armenian languages. The Ministry of Interior’s appeal to the State Council for the dismissal of Mayor Demirbas and the dissolution of the Sur Municipal Council due to this municipal council’s decision was concluded. Mr. Demirbas is dismissed, and the municipal council dissolved. This situation is unacceptable with regards to local democracy, cultural rights and freedoms and state-citizen relations. That a mayor who was elected with the free will of people by 60% of popular vote and the municipal council are subjected to such a sanction is not simply a human rights violation, but also an example of profoundly derogatory and offensive discrimination. Unfortunately, law has once again been used as a political tool, and cultural rights and freedoms are once again being nullified, and sacrificed to the contingencies of the political context.
Dear Press Members,
It is evident that the monolithic, homogenizing cultural and linguistic policies the Kurdish citizens have been exposed to since the establishment of the Republic forms the background of the State Council’s unfortunate decision. Obviously, Turkey of the 21st century cannot be governed with monolithic and assimilationist linguistic and cultural policies framed in the 1930s, and reinforced by the coup d’état in 1980. The existence of different languages and cultures was not recognized in Turkey for a long time; our problems have been postponed, othered and accumulated through “kart-kurt” discourses that do not befit state solemnity; social peace and stability were lost; our linguistic, cultural and religious diversity to be recognized and endorsed as richness was damaged; and any reasonable demand in this regard was turned into a crisis, as it is now. Notwithstanding that the symbolic steps taken in the field of cultural rights in the context of Turkey’s accession to the European Union created hopes that democratic changes would follow, the current situation indicates that democratic reforms have not been internalized, and Turkey’s habit of fearing its own richness and diversity persists.
Dear Press Members,
As mayors who are members of the Democratic Society Party, we do have no intention to change the official language of Turkey, which is Turkish, and replace it with Kurdish. However, forcing an individual, a group or a people to abandon their mother tongue, the right to use their mother tongue or to sanction them for using their mother tongue does not comply with any fundamental humanitarian value. Several investigations were launched and court cases opened against almost all of our fellow mayors, some of whom are here with us and some not, solely due to their use of Kurdish, which is only one of the languages they use other than Turkish. The mayors of settlements where local population’s mother tongue is predominantly Kurdish are being tried due to their use of Kurdish along with Turkish and English in New Year or holiday cards, in environmental cleanliness and health brochures, and websites. Turkish is the official language of the state. However, if Turks and Kurds are brothers and sisters in this country, if they are to live together in this country, then it is required to recognize and endorse Kurdish as richness and a language of Turkey. To nullify Kurdish, to investigate into it, to punish it is discrimination.
Dear Press Members,
We believe that fair and participatory local governance requires the local governments do respond to the needs of people. The legitimacy of cultural and linguistic policies of a government that does not recognize the rights of its own citizens to have services in their mother tongue is naturally rendered questionable in the public’s perception. We believe that the way to democracy, stability and the frequently stated unity and togetherness in Turkey passes through ensuring that cultural rights are guaranteed by the law and Constitution. Unfortunately, Turkey’s legal structure is currently far away from meeting the pluralist demands that derive from our social and cultural diversity. The guarantee of a dignified unity and togetherness cannot be attained by repressing differences by force and violence; but by urgently devising the legal arrangements that would enable these differences to live and flourish. Therefore, the path that we should take is not to make people comply with law by force; but to rearrange the laws in accordance with the legitimate demands of people.
Dear Press Members,
In conclusion, as those who live in the Eastern part of the country, we know very well that Kurdish is a part of our daily life. You, press members also do attest to this fact. All public authorities living here also know very well that Kurdish is a reality of this area. We cannot close our eyes to this reality; we cannot turn our back to this reality. As mayors, we have responsibility towards our citizens and their demands.
Therefore, this event is not just a pressure exerted over the municipalities and mayors, but an antidemocratic attitude towards all citizens living in the region and speaking Kurdish. There should be no doubt that we will continue to use Kurdish, a richness of Turkey, both in our daily lives and in some of our services. If the use of Kurdish is a crime, then we are committing this crime on a daily basis, and will continue to do so. We will decisively continue to contribute to the flourishing of the culture of local democracy and strengthen the will and desire of our people to live together, no matter what it costs.
Thank you for your concern.
List of DTP Mayors:
Osman BAYDEMİR Hüseyin KALKAN Ahmet ERTAK
Mayor, Diyarbakır Mayor, Batman Mayor, Şırnak
Metin TEKÇE Songül Erol ABDİL Fırat ANLI
Mayor, Hakkari Mayor, Tunceli Mayor, Yenişehir
Yurdusev ÖZSÖKMENLER Kutbettin TAŞKIRAN Zülküf KARATEKİN
Mayor, Bağlar Mayor, Bayrambaşı Mayor, Kayapınar
Nadir BİNGÖL Abdullah DEMİRBAŞ Şükran AYDIN
Mayor, Ergani Mayor, Suriçi Mayor, Bismil
Fikret KAYA Şeyhmus BAYHAN Abdullah AKENGİN
Mayor, Silvan Mayor, Lice Mayor, Dicle
Mehmet KAYA Esat ÖNER Murat CEYLAN
Mayor, Kocaköy Mayor, Gercüş Mayor, Kurtalan
Seyfettin AYDIN Ethem ŞAHİN Emrullah CİN
Mayor, Gökçebağ Mayor, Suruç Mayor, Viranşehir
İsmail ARSLAN Hüseyin ÖĞRETMEN Aydın BUDAK
Mayor, Ceylanpınar Mayor, Yukarıgöklü Mayor, Cizre
Resul SADAK Muhsin KONUR Gülcihan ŞİMŞEK
Mayor, İdil Mayor, Silopi Mayor, Bostaniçi
Hurşit TEKİN Faik DURSUN M. Salih YILDIZ
Mayor, Şemdinli Mayor, Beytulşebap Mayor, Yüksekova
Hurşit ALTEKİN Süleyman ANIK Cihan SİNCAR
Mayor, Esendere Mayor, Dargeçit Mayor, Kızıltepe
Molla ŞİMŞEK Ramazan KAPAN Nuran ATLI
Mayor, Gölyazı Mayor, Derik Mayor, Mazıdağı
Mehmet TANHAN Ayhan ERKMEN M. Selim DEMİR
Mayor, Nusaybin Mayor, Dağpınar Mayor, Bekirhan
A. Kadir AĞAOĞLU A. Kerim ADAN Zeyniye ÖNER
Mayor, Şenyurt Mayor, Yalımlı Mayor, Sürgücü
Demir ÇELİK Tahir KAHRAMANER Ali YILDIZ
Mayor, Varto Mayor, Malazgirt Mayor, Gölkuru
Orhan ÖZER Mukaddes KUBİLAY M. Nezir ARAS
Mayor, Rüstem Gedik Mayor, Doğubeyazıt Mayor, Bulanık
Nusret ARAS Leyla GÜVEN Muzaffer YÖNDEMLİ
Mayor, Hoşhaber Mayor, Küçükdikili Mayor, Ovaemir
Osman KESER Seyfettin ALKAN Burhan KORHAN
Mayor, Yakapınar Mayor, Balpınar Mayor, Beşiri