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Minorities in Turkey face numerous challenges in securing their rights to education in minority languages

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Challenges facing minorities in Turkey

Minority Rights Group Europe publishes its bi-annually Bulletin that introduces major issues of minority rights in the last six months (July- December 2021).

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In this Bulletin you can read about urgent issues experienced by ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities in Turkey concerning language, places of worship places, minority media, women and LGBTQT+ person’s rights and political participation.

Right to education in minority languages

Minorities in Turkey struggle to prove their existence. In this sense, there is still no right to mother tongue education at schools.

There is a protocol to choose Kurdish, Laz or Hemshin language educatin as an elective course. However, students and parents do not know how they can apply for these courses. These courses are not run due to ` lack of enough students` as an official explanation.

According to first-hand accounts local people are sufficiently about the availability of such elective language courses in southern Turkey, where there densely populated Kurdish areas.

This is also one reason why parents do not submit application for Kurdish as an elective course for their children in other regions.

It is stated that the majority of parents speaking Hemshin and Laz languages, do not ask for mother tongue education, as they do not want their children to be stigmatized and associated with terrorist organizations especially in the East Black Sea Region.

In 2021, one of the most important topics on the agenda of minorities in Turkey was the right to education in a mother tongue.

The Kurdish Language Platform (Platforma Zimane Kurdi) wrote an open letter to President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, demanding that the government control on Kurdish language teaching and practice should be lifted and that Kurdish should be recognized officially. In the same letter signed by the spokesperson of the Platform, Serefhan Ciziri, the importance of mother tongue education was emphasized.

The Language Rights Monitoring Documentation and Reporting Network (DHİBRA), comprising 99 organizations, institutions, and platforms announced their demands concerning 19 mother tongues in Turkey on 21 February 2021, World Mother Language Day. In its message, the Network stated that `All mother languages and linguistic pluralism which are the richness of Turkey, need to be embraced and supported by everyone. Removing barriers to language rights is an essential part of democracy.

Kurdish PEN, the Mardin Mesopotamia Writers Association, the Birca Belek Language and Culture Association, the Kurdish Writers Association and the Mesopotamia Language and Culture Research Association made a joint statement ahead of 21 February, the World Mother Language Day, and requested that Kurdish should be accepted as a language of education at public schools.

This content represents the views of Minority Rights Group only and is its sole responsibility. The European Union does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains therein.

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