Turkey to allow public services in mother tongue

The ruling AKP plans to remove any barriers in the way of citizens receiving public services in their mother tongue.

Turkey to allow public services in mother tongue

World Bulletin/News Desk                        

The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) has kicked off preparations for legislation that would allow public services to be conducted in one's mother tongue.

A senior official from the AKP told Turkish press on the condition of anonymity that the legislation will be in place by the end of 2014.

According to the official, the preparations were part of commitments the AKP announced during the party's last congress on Sept. 30 of last year. “We are implementing the 63-point package announced during the congress,” he stated.

The AKP, as per the 63-point roadmap, plans to remove any barriers in the way of citizens receiving public services in their mother tongue.

Steps towards enabling public services to be conducted in one's mother tongue follow ongoing efforts by the government to settle the decades-old Kurdish problem through peace and dialogue.

The AKP official stated it would be wrong to claim that the steps are taken because the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) or the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) asked for them.

He also said the AKP's preparations to allow public services to be delivered in one's mother tongue had begun before the BDP submitted a proposal to change the law to that effect in January of this year.

The AKP is planning to finalize its preparations on the legislation by autumn and then discuss the issue with other lawmakers in Parliament once they return from the summer recess. Parliament will go into summer recess on July 1 and reconvene on Oct. 1.

According to the AKP's plans, state hospitals will employ translators to ensure smooth communication between doctors and patients in regions largely populated by ethnic groups, Kurds in particular.

It is estimated that up to 15 million Kurds live in Turkey. They mostly reside in eastern and southeastern parts of the country. If doctors happen to know Kurdish, then they will speak in Kurdish with patients and their relatives.

In addition, state banks, social security centers, tax offices, post offices and municipalities will employ staff who know Kurdish. Their buildings will have signs in Kurdish as well as Turkish.

Political analyst Mümtaz'er Türköne said he supports the idea of letting people receive education and public services in their mother language. “I should say that the [AKP] plan is a very positive step which I believe is independent from the ongoing [settlement] process,” he said in remarks to Today's Zaman.

Türköne also said the plan should receive wide support from the public, and similar steps should be taken by the government to get rid of other chronic problems that Turkey has been striving to solve for decades.

The Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) President Ahmet Faruk Ünsal said the AKP plan to allow receiving public services in one's mother tongue is a belated but still positive step aimed at boosting fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey.

According to Ünsal, the plan is aimed at making up for the “past mistakes of the country.” He was referring to a ban imposed on the public use of Kurdish that remained in place for several years.

In Turkey, the public use of the Kurdish language was banned in schools, official settings and non-music broadcasts in the aftermath of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d'état.

The language was banned through an article of the Constitution drafted after the coup. The article stated that no language prohibited by law shall be used in the expression and dissemination of thought and that any written or printed documents, phonograph records, magnetic or video tapes and other means of expression used in contravention of this provision shall be seized. The ban remained in place until 1991.

Since taking office first in 2002, the AKP has taken significant steps in a bid to reconcile with its Kurdish population. Among the initiatives was the 2009 dedication of one of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation's (TRT) channels to broadcast in Kurdish in a bid to fulfill a long-held demand from the country's Kurds.

Last Mod: 03 Mayıs 2013, 11:48
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