In response to that, around 95 municipalities, political and popular entities in Turkey’s Kurdistan have decided to take part in the campaign.

The court in Diyarbakir, or Amed as known among the Kurds, described Kurdish “the so-called Kurdish language” and “the unknown language” during the trial of the Kurdish heads of municipalities and members of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). The defendants and their attorneys were not allowed to present their defence case in Kurdish.

When Salma Irmak, one of the defendants, said in Kurdish “I want to present my defence case in Kurdish”, the court’s judges cut off his microphone. The judge then told Irmak, “You don’t understand the court’s language and speak in the so-called Kurdish language.”

When the attorneys for the Kurdish defendants criticized the court’s decision, the judge said, “If you want to present your defence case, I will allow you, otherwise your microphones will be switched off.” Following that the court’s session was adjourned until Nov. 11.

In the next session the arguments over the use of Kurdish language continued. When the court read out the defendants’ names, they said “levrem” in Kurdish, meaning present.

The deputy head of BDP also told the court that he wanted to offer his defence in Kurdish. The judge then said, “Say we want to defend ourselves in the so-called Kurdish language.” That enraged the defendants, many of whom said, “Our language is Kurdish.” When the judge asked the defendants if any of them wanted to give their defence case in Turkish, the court fell silent.

The judge’s behaviour outraged BDP’s leadership prompting one of its two co-presidents, Selahettin Demirtas to say all the party’s activities will be conducted in Kurdish from now on.

The court’s decision to ban the use of Kurdish drew criticism from the deputy head of the ruling Justice and Development Party, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Hussein Ceik said, “Kurdish is the language spoken by millions of Turkey’s citizens. It’s a shame that it is called ‘an unknown’ language.”

Celik is himself of Kurdish origin and hails from the Kurdish city of Van. He said the court’s treatment of Kurdish was against the government’s current efforts to further soften up restrictions on the use of Kurdish in public.

The judge’s reaction to the use of Kurdish led to mass rallies in which the heads of some of the major legal Kurdish organizations in Turkey, in particular BDP, called for the use of Kurdish in all public arenas.

As part of the campaign to promote the use of Kurdish, the KURDÎ-DER organization in the Nesebin town of southeastern Turkey asked the city’s predominantly Kurdish residents to use Kurdish in their daily lives. As a symbolic step, the group distributed signs among grocery stores in which the names of fruits and vegetables were written in Kurdish.

Abdulla Alper, the head of the organization in Nesebin said it is time to end the current state policies regarding the use of Kurdish especially in the area of business.

Nesebin’s municipal chief, Aysha Gukan, also said, “in this country, the president and the prime minister have spoken in Kurdish and there is a 24-hour Kurdish channel but when a Kurd speaks his language it is viewed as a crime.”

Earlier, the municipality council of Diyarbakir decided to write the Kurdish names of villages in the area in Kurdish along their Turkish names. But when last month the council sent the ordinance to the governor of Diyarbakir for approval, he rejected it.

Governor Mustafa Tuprak said the “decision (by the council) is against the constitution.”

“Turkey is one country and is indivisible. The language of Turkey is Turkish and that will never change because that would be immoral and shameful,” Tuprak said.

Diyarbakir’s municipality council is controlled by the Kurds while the governor is appointed by the central government in Ankara.

November 21, 2010