DTP speaks Kurdish in parliament, speaker says constitutional breach

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DTP speaks Kurdish in parliament, speaker says constitutional breach
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Şubat 24, 2009 12:55

The leader of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) gave a Kurdish speech in his address during the party's parliamentary group meeting. State TV, TRT, cut the live broadcast, while the parliament speaker said the move was a breach of constitution. (UPDATED)

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Ahmet Turk announced during his parliamentary address that he would continue his speech in Kurdish "in the name of the brotherhood and beauty of the languages".  

Turk spoke Turkish for several minutes before switching. He said he was speaking Kurdish in recognition of the U.N. cultural body UNESCO's International Mother Language Day this week to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
"Turkey must save itself from the shame of banning a tongue in this era," he said in Turkish.  "Everyone should understand that requesting an end to the ban on Kurdish is an extremely natural request," he added.

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Turkish state television TRT cut the live Parliament TV broadcast of the group meeting of pro-Kurdish party DTP when Turk started speaking in Kurdish.

TRT said under the law no language other than Turkish could be used when making parliamentary speeches or group addresses.

"The constitution and the law on political parties prohibit the usage of any language other than Turkish in the parliament and in the group meetings. Therefore we had to cut the live broadcast and we apologize for this," a TRT announcement made on the incident said.

A former deputy from a pro-Kurdish party had been jailed in 1995 for speaking Kurdish at an inauguration ceremony in parliament.

Turk told reporters after the meeting that he did not inform the parliament speaker about the issue ahead of time. "If it is not allowed to speak in a native language, then women in chadors should not be allowed in parliament as well," he added.  

Turk's move was a breach of constitution, Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan said in a written statement.

"Legislative actions in parliament do not consist only of general assembly works. They also include consultative board meetings, works of commissions and political parties' group meetings. Use of any language except for Turkish means an open violation of the constitution," said a statement released by Turkish Parliament Speaker's Office.

Toptan earlier on Tuesday told reporters that Turkish is the only language that can be spoken at parliamentary group meetings. "The official language is Turkish. It is clear in the constitution and Political Party Law. Turkish must be spoken in such meetings," he said.

The speaker however said Turk would not face penalties for defying the law.

Turkey took steps to boost the cultural and democratic rights of Kurds. TRT launched on Jan. 1 a TV channel which airs in Kurdish 24 hours a day.

The Kurdish-language channel, TRT 6, simultaneously translated and aired a speech made by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at an election rally in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir.
The deputy parliamentary group leader of the ruling Justice and Development, Nihat Ergun, said the messages given in parliament should be in Turkish, what he described as the "common language", in order to reach all citizens.

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"This is a provocative move against the democratic reforms made by the government," he told CNNTurk.
But the main opposition party accused TRT of censorship.
"TRT’s censoring (of the speech) is not right. This is an act of censors. TRT should not censor the leader of a political party," Mustafa Ozyurek, the spokesman for main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told TV channels.

"Of course, our official language is Turkish. Mr. Turk’s abeyance of this law would be appropriate. But I don’t find it right for TRT to implement censorship for his speaking," he added.

The nationalist opposition party said both the parliamentary address made by the DTP leader and the launch of TRT 6 are wrong.

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"Mr.Turk has made a mistake... TRT launching a broadcast in the Kurdish language is the real mistake here... We have asked in the past what would happen if Kurdish was also spoken in parliament," Cihan Pacaci, the General Secretariat of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party told NTV.

Former speaker of parliament, Husamettin Cindoruk, also told NTV that using another language other than Turkish is only possible with the approval of parliament.

"There is no difference between (speaking Kurdish) either at group meetings or in the general meeting or at a commission. It is not possible to speak Kurdish anywhere because the official language of the country is Turkish," Cindoruk added.

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