Turkey Kurdistan,— Turkish courts in at least two provinces banned election billboard banners in the Kurdish language on Thursday, ordering police to take them down as the country prepares for a nationwide vote to elect local administrations, Kurdistan24 TV reported.
A court in the city of Sanliurfa justified the ban it imposed on a banner by the opposition Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on the grounds it was “terrorist propaganda.”
The banner in question read “Li Dijî Şer Aşitî” which means “Peace versus War,” a phrase calling on voters to choose HDP candidates over those endorsed by the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan-led ruling right-wing coalition that has put a fiercely anti-Kurdish policy at the top of its agenda.
Turkey is at war with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters at home and US-backed Kurdish forces leading the anti-Islamic State campaign in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).
HDP’s Urfa branch said on its Twitter page that the Turkish prosecutor’s office mistranslated the phrase as “the peace belongs to us after the war.”
The party filed an objection to the ruling and a lawsuit against officials who it said knowingly mistranslated it.
Police have already taken down all the banners displaying the Kurdish phrase.
A second similar ruling came from a court in the northwestern city of Edirne on the border with Greece where Turkish authorities keep Kurdish political leader Selahattin Demirtas imprisoned since 2016.
The court considered the sentence “Azadî bi xwerêverbirinê destpê dike,” which means “Liberty begins with self-rule,” as “terrorist propaganda” and ordered a takedown of all billboards showing it.
HDP also said that not a single Turkish television channel had accepted to air an election ad that was featuring the country’s diversity ahead of the March 31 vote in which over 1,400 local entities will choose their mayors.
“No media talks about us, there is only one TV channel that is showing us, and it is Tayyip TV,” the party’s leader, Pervin Buldan, told voters in the Mediterranean city of Mersin’s Kurdish-majority Akdeniz district.
She was mockingly using the middle name of President Erdogan who has made HDP a fair target he frequently associates with “terrorism” at his election rallies, a charge he applies to the broader opposition for the latter’s unofficial alliance with the pro-Kurdish party.
The Turkish government has long accused the HDP of close links with the PKK. The HDP is known for its support of autonomy in Turkish Kurdistan (Bakur), the regions where large Kurdish populations live. Some of its members have also been charged or accused of having links to the PKK organization.
Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish language, prohibiting the language in education and broadcast media.
The use of the Kurdish letters X, W, Q which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet are prohibited in Turkey and has led to judicial persecution in 2000 and 2003. Kurdish Newroz must be written as ‘Nevruz’ with Turkish alphabet.
The use of the term “Kurdistan” is vigorously rejected due to its alleged political implications by the Republic of Turkey, which does not recognize the existence of a “Turkish Kurdistan” Southeast Turkey. The word ‘KURDISTAN’ is strongly prohibited in Turkey.
Kurdish is not an official language in Turkey despite having a roughly 22,5 million speakers in the country. Kurds are allowed to speak in their mother tongue at home, although the government has allowed some pro-government TV channels to present programs in Kurdish.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy in Turkish Kurdistan for the Kurdish minority. More than 40,000 Turkish soldiers and Kurdish rebels, have been killed in the conflict.
A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974 and currently serving a life sentence in Turkey, has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.