Turkish universities offer in-depth knowledge of long-extinct civilizations of Sumerian, and Hittite culture, but none as yet has a department devoted to Kurdish and Armenian languages, or Hebrew. A recent proposal by the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, deputy Osman Özçelik to open a department on Kurdish language at Istanbul and Dicle universities has highlighted this deficit.
"If universities make such a proposal, we can discuss the issue with our friends and do what is necessary," President of Higher Education Board, or YÖK, Yusuf Ziya Özcan told daily Radikal.
A department on Armenian language and literature is expected to be launched next year at Nevşehir University. "At least three professors who can teach the subject are required before the department is operational. We are talking with professors in Turkey who wrote about Armenian literature," Nevşehir University Rector Filiz Kılıç told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review yesterday.
"A department on Armenian literature is a critical subject, and it is a long due project. Turkey should have had several similar departments long ago," Kılıç said.
"Classes will necessarily include particularities of the Armenian language and literature, but the specific content will be written once the professors start their job," she said."It is not clear whether the department will be ready for the 2009-2010 academic year, but we want to start it after adequate preparations," Kılıç said.
Nevşehir University has departments on Hebrew and literature as well, but the priority is now in making Armenian language and literature an operational department, Kılıç said. Greek language and literature has been taught at Istanbul University since 1983 and in Ankara University since 1936.
’No obstacle before Kurdish department’
The academic world received the demand to open Kurdish language and literature departments favorably, stressing that it could contribute to societal peace. Mardin Artuklu University Rector Serdar Bedii Omay said they had launched work to open a department at their own university and will submit the proposal to YÖK as soon as possible. Drawing attention to the importance of opening up such a department in terms of social peace, Omay said such a department would reap great benefits for the country.
Meanwhile, YÖK authorities noted that there was no constitutional hurdle against the proposal.
President of YÖK’s education committee Halis Ayhan argued that it is even a late decision. "The education language is determined as Turkish in the constitution, and as long as it does not contradict with the article of the constitution, I have no objection to opening such departments," he said.
Well-known for its Language, History and Geography Faculty, Ankara University is one of the institutions that reacted positively to the idea. "If our Language, History and Geography Faculty offers to open a department, we will work on the subject with pleasure," said Ankara University Rector Cemal Taluğ.
Two universities in east and southeast Anatolia, where the Kurdish population is high, also presented a positive stance on the subject. Hakkari University Rector İbrahim Belenli said he saw no harm in opening a Kurdish language department.
"A Kurdish language and literature department may be opened within our Faculty of Science and Letters. We don’t have the related faculty yet, however, when the laws to open the department are convenient and such a proposal is made within the university, I can submit it to YÖK," said Şırnak University Rector Ali Akmaz. Special courses in Kurdish were opened in recent past but none of the universities have a program on the Kurdish language.