Free Kurdish classes by Istanbul Municipality announced by opposition

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has announced that the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is preparing to offer free Kurdish language courses, the Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Wednesday.

The CHP leader’s announcement came during Wednesday’s meeting with graduates from Turkey’s Kurdish language and literature programs, which is organized by a Kurdish human rights platform.

CHP’s Istanbul leader Canan Kaftancioglu, Istanbul MP Sezgin Tanrikulu, Ankara MP Tekin Bingol and Kadıkoy Mayor Serdil Dara Odabasi were among the attendees of Wednesday’s meeting.

According to Kilicdaroglu’s statement, the ministry aims to provide free Kurdish courses through its long-running Centre for Art and Vocational Training Courses (ISMEK) program.

Established in 1996 when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was serving as the mayor of Istanbul, ISMEK is a mass education organization that offers free vocational courses on a wide array of subjects for those looking to improve their skills or gain new abilities toward a profession.

The preparations for the Kurdish classes follow a call to the Turkish government by Kilicdaroglu to recognize the use of the Kurdish language in civic institutions and education.

“No language other than Turkish can be taught as a native language to Turkish citizens,” according to the 42nd Article of the Turkish Constitution, which is ratified in 1982, two years after a violent military coup.

In a statement that he made after an iftar dinner with Kurdish opinion leaders in May, the CHP leader had argued that a legislative regulation is needed to be prepared for Kurdish to be recognized as an official language in Turkey.

He also argued on Wednesday that although Kurdish courses by ISMEK are a way for Istanbul opposition mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to be a party to the solution, the problem of the recognition of Kurdish language in Turkey can only be solved through legal measures at the parliamentary level.

“It is an indispensable right for people to learn, read and write in their own language. This includes the Kurds,’’ the CHP leader said.

In recent electoral periods, Turkey’s main opposition has made efforts to embrace the country’s Kurdish population that constitutes an estimated 15 percent of Turkey’s total population.

The CHP and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) cooperated against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during the March 31 local elections in order to capitalize on escalating frustration against its handling of Turkey’s shrinking economy.

Partly because the pro-Kurdish HDP urged its supporters in Turkey’s west to cast strategic votes for opposition candidates in local polls, CHP candidates won the race against the ruling AKP in a number of major cities, including Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir — the country’s three largest cities.

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