When Ahmet Türk, MP and co-chair
of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) addressed the MPs of his
party in a party group meeting in parliament yesterday (24 February), the state
channel TRT broadcasting live from parliament was ordered to halt filming.
"Not legally possible"
Immediately after the event,
Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan, announced that he had ordered the cut. In a
press briefing on “using any language other than Turkish in Parliament”, he
said that Article 3 of the Turkish constitution laid down that Turkish was the
“official language”; in addition, so Toptan, the Law on Political Parties
contained an article (Article 81) banning any other language than Turkish for
Toptan said that Türk speaking in
Kurdish was a violation of the constitution and added, “it is obvious that a
meeting which is carried out in a language which it is not legally possible to
use cannot legally be broadcast on Parliamentarian TV.”
argued that the Parliament Speaker controls the broadcasts of the TV channel:
“That is why, as soon as a language other than Turkish was spoken at the DTP
group meeting, the broadcast was cut in order not to permit an act that
violates the constitution and laws.”
"The beauty of languages"
Ahmet Türk spoke to journalists after the group meeting, saying:
a project of our group. We speak of the beauty and brotherhood of languages.
Following the logic of today’s world, where languages are legitimitate and seen
as an enrichment, today had to happen. Now someone will say, ‘but this in
parliament…’ If you measure it like that, then women in chadors should not be
able to come and visit Parliament either. We have spoken about the beauty of
languages. This is an opportunity for Turkey to lift legal obstacles to
languages; this is our message.”
After all, we hear it on TV and from the Prime Minister...
As for his speech in the party
group meeting, Türk had said that Prime Minister Erdoğan was free to use some
Kurdish at party rallies. Türk said in Turkish, “Kurdish is banned for Kurds,
but it is allowed for the AKP (ruling Justice and Development Party) and the
state.” He then said:
“We have no objections to Turkish
being the official language of Turkey,
but we want it to be understood that we are making a very humane demand, the
demand that all bans on Kurdish should be lifted in the areas of local
government, education, press and media and local councils.”
"Some are trying to widen the ban"
spoke to Prof. Dr. Mithat Sancar, a lawyer at Ankara University.
Sancar was of the opinion that Türk speaking Kurdish in a party group meeting
did not violate either the constitution or the Law on Political Parties. He
argued that on the contrary, those trying to widen the ban expressed in the law
were violating the principle of legislative responsibility in the constitution.
constitutional article, so Sancar, did not mean that languages apart from the
official language were forbidden. If that were the case, then neither could the
Prime Minister say anything in Kurdish, nor could the recently set up state TRT
6 channel broadcast in Kurdish.
that the speech in a party group meeting could not be counted as a formal
Freedom of expression
academic evaluated the Law on Political Parties as “inherently problematic”.
Attempts to widen a ban on Kurdish in order to extend it to group party
meetings, so Sancar, represented a violation of Article 83 of the constitution.
“The article gives absolute immunity to MPs to express their ideas. According
to decrees by the European Court of Human Rights, freedom of expression
includes the protection of the freedom to use a way of expression, different
means and different languages. That is why it is wrong to invent a violation
speech, so Sancar, was very possibly a pre-election strategy to gain more votes
from Kurds. Türk’s reference to the United Nations’ Day of Mother Languages on
21 February was also bound to be applauded by democratic circles.
pointed out that currently Turkey
was a country where a state channel was broadcasting in Kurdish, the PM was
able to use Kurdish, and the foundation of Kurdish or Kurdology departments at
universities was being discussed.
TV audience has same right to access information
bianet’s project coordinator
Ertuğrul Kürkçü interpreted the broadcasting interruption as a “crude
intervention”. He drew attention to the public broadcasting aspect of the
“If those watching the meeting in
the party group room are listening to the speech, then the principles of transparency
and participation dictate that citizens outside of parliament be able to access
the same information. If those in the room are not forced to leave, then the
broadcast cannot be interrupted.” (TK/AG)