HDP urges Turkey Parliament to write ‘Kurdistan’ accurately

An HDP lawmaker says the Parliament's stenographers violate Turkish spelling rules by writing "Kurdistan," a proper noun, in lower case.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A lawmaker from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Friday asked the country’s Parliament to transcribe the proper noun “Kurdistan” accurately, with the first letter capitalized, as required by the Turkish language rules.

In a written question to the Speaker’s office, HDP lawmaker Lezgin Botan said his aides discovered some stenographers had at different dates spelled the word as “kurdistan” instead of “Kurdistan” in the official parliamentary minutes.

The Turkish state and public are overly sensitive to the word “Kurdistan,” which in some cases they readily associate with treason for its denotation of some 20 Kurdish-majority provinces in the east and southeast as part of the Kurdish homeland divided between Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.

The country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, their offices and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the government-run Anadolu Agency euphemistically refer to the Kurdistan Region as “the Kurdish Regional Administration of Iraq” or “the local administration in northern Iraq.”

A screenshot of the official online records of the 120th legislative session on July 27, 2017, of the Turkish Parliament's 26th term that show the word
A screenshot of the official online records of the 120th legislative session on July 27, 2017, of the Turkish Parliament's 26th term that show the word "Kurdistan" spelled in lower case. (Screenshot was taken on Oct. 14, 2017)

“The term Kurdistan, much like Africa, Turkistan, Thrace, Cappadocia, is a place name. And writing it uncapitalized is in violation of spelling rules set by the Turkish Language Institution,” Botan said in his question.

The Ankara-based institute is the official regulatory body of the Turkish language, founded in 1932 at the behest of the modern republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Botan urged the Speakership to correct errors in previous records and not to repeat them in upcoming sessions.

Talking to Kurdistan 24 over the phone from Ankara on Saturday, Botan expressed fatigue about what he called disrespect to the Kurdish people.

“We cannot accept this. Kurdistan is a historical, geographic, and ethnographic reality of life,” he emphasized.

A quick, random Kurdistan 24 search in official recordings regularly released on the Turkish Parliament’s website revealed that stenographers had written “Kurdistan” in both lower and upper cases, at times in the same paragraph.

However, the typists always capitalized other country or region names such as Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Germany, Egypt, or Catalonia.

In July, the Parliament passed a set of bylaws forbidding MPs from employing certain words and phrases, such as “Kurdistan” or “Armenian Genocide,” during legislative sessions.

The article stipulating the ban did not explicitly list the banned words, terms, or phrases but gave outlines on what not to say.

It stated that lawmakers cannot use definitions that are “in violation of the administrative structure” as defined by the “indivisible wholeness” of the Republic of Turkey.

Lawmakers speaking in contravention of the new parliamentary regulations could face expulsion for three sessions or a two-thirds cut in their salary.

Despite the ratification of the ban by lawmakers from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), and its far-right ally in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), HDP members have continued to utter the word Kurdistan.

Botan said he and his colleagues regularly brace verbal protestation by other lawmakers and warnings from the Speaker Ismail Kahraman, but they have not been fined in the form of a salary cut or ousted from a legislative session yet.


Editing by Karzan Sulaivany