Turkey shutters Kurdish language institute

"24 years ago, the morning after the opening day in autumn, the police took down its signboard from the building because it contained the word Kurdish."

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Kurdistan24) - Turkish authorities in Istanbul shuttered Friday the oldest Kurdish language establishment in the country by a state of emergency government decree.

The Kurdish Institute in Istanbul was one of the 94 non-governmental organizations in 20 provinces ordered to be closed on Thursday by authorities, said Kurdistan24 Istanbul Bureau.

Founded in 1992 during a period of decades-long intense state repression on Kurdish, the institute acted over the years as a center of language learning for thousands of people, mainly students studying at the universities in the city.

The Institute was offering language courses in Zazaki, Sorani and Kurmanji dialects for Kurds and non-Kurds alike, as well as funding cultural projects and publishing dictionaries, teaching materials, and linguistic researches.

It was also issuing a semiannual literary magazine, Zend.

Among the founders of the Institute were the towering Kurdish intellectual Musa Anter who was later the same year assassinated by Turkish military intelligence (JITEM), the linguist Feqi Huseyin Sagnic, and the long-time friend of the Kurds, the Turkish sociologist Ismail Besikci.


The owner of the leading Kurdish publishing house Avesta, Abdullah Keskin who was present at the opening ceremony of the Institute said the closure of the institute was a deja vu for him.

"24 years ago, the morning after the opening day in autumn, the police took down its signboard from the building because it contained the word Kurdish," Keskin told Kurdistan24 in an electronic message.

"The Kurdish Institute was opened in the darkness of the 1990s; its doors were sealed this morning. Enmity of the Kurdish tongue," tweeted pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker from the Urfa province, Osman Baydemir.

Baydemir demanded an end to the state of emergency underway since the failed July 15 military coup attempt against the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule.

Although Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government hold the once-an-ally, US-based Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen's followers in the army responsible for the botched coup attempt, their response afterward has also targeted Kurdish political and civic organizations among others.

A victim of snap bans on media last September was a Kurdish children's channel, Zarok TV which after fierce criticism was allowed to air again earlier this month.

Other casualties of rising state authoritarianism have been kindergartens, city theaters, and cultural clubs operating in Kurdish language.


Editing by Ava Homa