chapter  7
24 Pages

Repression or reform? An analysis of the AKP’s Kurdish language policy WELAT ZEYDANLIOG˘LU

In Turkey, the language policy of the Turkish elite can be said to have had a dual role: first, modernising, purifying, and secularizing the Turkish language; second, eradicating non-Turkish languages and establishing the dominance of Turkish in all arenas of life. In this chapter, I will specifically consider the second aspect of this policy.1 The strategy of placing Turkish at the heart of Turkish modernity and nation-building, while annihilating other languages, has not only politicised the issue of language, it has also transformed the Turkish language into a fundamental aspect of Turkish existence, making it an unquestionable entity. Thus, linguistic rights in Turkey have been dominated and interpreted through a highly politicised and securitised scope, and conspiracy theories abound (Guida 2008). As an essential aspect of this language policy, the Turkish language in its ‘purified’ form has had the full support and backing of the Turkish state since its inception, while the other languages of Turkey have not only been neglected, but actively persecuted and suppressed, resulting in a significant loss of the linguistic and cultural diversity inherited from the Ottoman Empire. These systematic efforts to homogenise have resulted in a large section of the non-Turkish population being either forcibly expelled or assimilated, and they have also generated deep resentment and mobilisation around minority and linguistic rights that continues to inform the Kurdish question and minority rights in Turkey.2