"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."
- Charles Darwin

Feb 24, 2009

Talking Turkey: or, Kurds and Ways

Kurdish language and identity is under attack by our closest ally in the Middle East.
Image: Kurdish Film Festival

The Turkish government is in an uproar over a lawmaker's choice to speak Kurdish before his country's parliament today. His comments were in honor of International Mother Language Day, a UN designated holiday to celebrate the diversity of languages. Ahmed Turk had diplomatic immunity from arrest even though speaking Kurdish is against the law. A previous activist was not so lucky.
In 1991, Leyla Zana spoke her native language when she was sworn in as a deputy. She had immunity as a lawmaker, but it was later stripped and she served 10 years in prison on other Kurdish-related charges.
The US support for Turkish repression against the Kurds has been an ugly stain on our government's claim to promote democracy and freedom in the Middle East. The think tank, Foreign Policy in Focus, has an excellent "Brief History" highlighting this bipartisan support for human rights abuses throughout the last three decades.

I found the following phrase in Kurdish: Yek ziman her bes nabĂȘ. It translates to "One language is never enough."

Please feel free to e-mail it to the US Ambassador to Turkey, James F. Jeffery, at: You can also contact the Turkish Ministry of Tourism in Washington, D.C. at:

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