A milestone in Turkey’s history occurred today

Today, for the first time ever, Turkey’s official broadcaster, TRT, broadcast a television program in the main Kurdish dialect. This program is part of a series in minority languages, including Arabic and Bosnian. The Kurdish language broadcasting is the most important because the Kurds are by far the largest minority and ‘the Kurdish issue’ is arguably the biggest issue in modern Turkey. In 1998, if someone had claimed there would be Kurdish programming on Turkey’s national broadcaster they would’ve been laughed at (or thrown in prison for subversion).

It is yet to be seen whether this weekly broadcast will remain a token 30-minute effort to please the European Union or if it is the start of a major philosophical change.

Personally, I would like to see all Turkish people learn Kurdish, Arabic or another minority language as a second language at school, similar to the system in Switzerland. Every school student learning Kurdish (or another second language) would help demystify ‘the issue’, give greater recognition to all people in Turkey and assist in removing any basis for the PKK or similar terrorist groups. This would be a revolutionary change and I doubt it will happen for many years.

Some news reports concerning the Kurdish broadcast on TRT:

Associated Press

BBC

BBC again

Al Jazeera

AFP via EU Business

Addendum [12 June 2004]: An interesting Economist article on the broader Kurdish debate is here.