DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Kurdistan 24) – The number of books printed in the Kurdish language in Turkey decreased in 2017, with only 171 released, as century-long state repression amounting to a linguicide crept back after Ankara’s war with Kurdish rebels continued with the collapse of peace talks in recent years.
Researcher and journalist Cemil Oguz said the renewed phase of the conflict negatively affected people’s socio-cultural choices and state of mind.
“The statistics reveal that when war intensifies, the number of people reading Kurdish books drop. We know this from the fact that in 2014 over 250 books were published. Because then there was peace. This number is important in the history of Kurdistan,” Oguz told Kurdistan 24 in an interview in Diyarbakir.
At the time, the Turkish government was negotiating a peaceful settlement and ceasefire with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). However uneasy, it helped Kurdish culture and language flourish until the return of war in mid-2015.
An ongoing and repeatedly-extended state of emergency imposed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration has made matters worse for Kurdish publishers and readers alike since last year’s military coup attempt to topple the government.
That year, 190 books in different dialects of Kurdish made it to stores.
There are over a dozen Kurdish publishing houses in Turkey, a majority of them so far evading an increasing government crackdown on civil society, cultural institutes, and the media.
One of them, the Istanbul-based Avesta released only 13 books last year, not even half of those it published in the two previous years.
Abdullah Keskin, Avesta’s founder, and editor-in-chief, said the primary reason was the financial and logistical issues his publishing house faced.
“And, then the sales were actually never good. Politics obviously still plays a role,” Keskin continued over the phone from Istanbul.
Poet and author Şêxmûs Sefer believes although the ultimate responsibility of preserving and nourishing the language lies with the Kurds, they need self-rule and institutionalization to prevent further loss of it.
“As long as the Kurds are not rulers in their homeland and the Kurdish language does not have official status, this situation of being endangered will continue,” Sefer told Kurdistan 24 in Diyarbakir.
“Kurdish kids should be educated in their mother tongue when they go to school in the morning,” he added, advocating that it was difficult for Kurdish publishers to increase their readership if people were not able to read in the first place.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Mahir Yuksel of Kurdistan 24's Diyarbakir bureau contributed to this report)