Is the Use of Kurdish Banned in Turkey?

Contrary to the allegations of some biased quarters, there is no restriction on the use of languages in Turkey. Presently, there are many private radio-TV stations broadcasting and numerous books and journals published both in Turkish and in various dialects of “Kurdish” throughout the country. It should be mentioned here that “Kurdish” can be hardly depicted as “a single language” linguistically or socially. Many scholars point out the fact that there are many different local languages and dialects used in southeastern Turkey such as Zaza and Kırmanchi which are only as close to each other as French and English. These local languages and dialects are so dissimilar that people living in one village cannot even communicate with others from a neighboring village. As a result, Turkish has become the sole medium of communication in the region. It is ironic that Turkish is also used in PKK’s militant training camps and in the communication between its headquarters and terrorists as their common language.

The official language of the Republic of Turkey is Turkish, but Armenian, Ladino, Greek, the different dialects of “Kurdish”, etc. are spoken freely in daily life. There is only one official language in the country. However, in this respect Turkey does not constitute a unique and exceptional case either in Europe or among other democratic countries.

It should also be underlined that expressions of ethnic identity such as the use of local languages are viewed as private domain matters. Thus, they are not the subject of law and are therefore not regulated by the state. The Turkish language is the language of the Republic of Turkey and is consequently the only formal language of education and instruction. The same is true in most democracies. Though it is possible to help promote them, it is neither realistic nor feasible to make local tongues official languages of the State.