ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - The first newspaper to have ever been published fully in the Zazaki dialect of the Kurdish language in Turkey, Newepel, announced its closure Monday after over six years of low circulation.
In a Tuesday phone interview from the major Kurdish city of Diyarbakir with Kurdistan 24, the paper's founder and editor Rosan Lezgin said he has been pressured to shut it down for several reasons.
Lezgin, a publisher, author, poet and one of the authoritative linguistic voices in Zaza dialect, stated that the current political climate in Turkey--the year-round crackdown on both Kurdish politics and culture--brought an end to his paper.
Lezgin highlighted that a climate of fear, induced by massive purges the government has engaged in since the 2016 botched military coup attempt, intimated teachers, doctors, and other state employees from buying, writing for or being associated with Kurdish publications.
"Those formerly writing in Kurdish are now calling me to take down their writings from my website Zazaki.net," he exemplified, adding he would not judge them given the state of affairs in which many have lost their livelihoods or were arrested.
The inevitable financial restraints and lack of staff meant he had to put the publication on hiatus.
Newepel, based in Diyarbakir and co-edited by Lezgin and Bilal Zilan from home, was launched in April 2011 as a bi-monthly paper then after its 50th issue it became a monthly publication.
Printed in one thousand issues, the paper sold around 300 to 400 a month, with a smaller group of subscribers in Europe and the Kurdistan Region.
"I also kept sending each issue to about 50 prisoners, and we never charged them," Lezgin said, as Turkish authorities held most of them for political reasons.
With its emphasis on language, culture, and folklore, Newepel for years stayed away from petty politics but at the same time aimed to help forge a national consciousness among Turkey's Kurds who for a century have been resisting assimilationist state policies, Lezgin said.
He described his time with Newepel (new paper, or leaf) as a challenging endeavor and time-consuming, because of the lack of enough support from Kurdish readership.
Still, hundreds of people began penning in their mother tongue thanks to Lezgin who also teaches Kurdish dialects of Kurmanji and Zazaki in Diyarbakir.
Lezgin lamented the fact that Diyarbakir municipality which pro-Kurdish parties ruled since 1999 until its last year seizure by the Ankara government failed to provide any financial or organization assistance for his initiatives to promote the language.
For years Lezgin worked on his own, with no salary from anyone, most of the times forced to print Newepel with donations.
Despite the paper's closure, three other projects he launched, the publishing house 'Roşna' the website 'Zazaki.net' and the literary magazine 'Şewçila' would continue, Lezgin emphasized.
"But what matters is the younger generation's attitude toward Kurdish. Are they going to follow my footsteps and all those whom I taught?" he asked.
An estimated two million Kurds in several provinces of the Kurdistan of Turkey, mostly in Diyarbakir, Dersim, and Bingol speak Zazaki as their mother tongue.
Also named Kirmanjki or Dimili, a UNESCO report in 2016 classified Zazaki as a language vulnerable to extinction.
Editing by Ava Homa