ANKARA: Mayors Risk Jail In Language Row


Today’s Zaman, Turkey
July 31 2007

Prosecutors are seeking jail terms of up to three years for two
mayors who were elected from the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and
17 aldermen who introduced Kurdish and other languages to official
business while in office, court officials said Monday.

According to the Turkish Constitution, Turkish is the sole official
language and no other language may be used in government offices
and municipalities. The accused are Osman Baydemir, the mayor of
Diyarbakýr, and Abdullah Demirbaþ, who was removed last month from
his post as mayor of Sur, a town in Diyarbakýr. Demirbaþ was removed
after his city council in January passed a bill allowing the use of
Kurdish, Armenian, Arabic, Syriac and English in municipal services.

The charge-sheet accused the defendants of "abuse of office" and
sought prison sentences ranging from one to three years. The trial
of Baydemir, Demirbaþ and the 17 city councilmen who voted for the
municipal bill is scheduled to begin on Nov. 7.

In recent years, it has been legal to broadcast in Kurdish and for
private institutions to teach the Kurdish language. However, the
law still requires everyone to use the official language, Turkish,
in official communications and politics.

Meanwhile it is reported that pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party
(DTP) independent deputies wrote only "Turkish" under the section for
"languages known by deputy" when they registered themselves as new
deputies to the Parliament for the coming term.

When these claims were mentioned to Parliament Speaker Bulent Arýnc,
he said that "we are dependent on people’s declarations. If there are
any falsities in these declarations according to the Constitution
and internal regulations, we can tell those deputies to correct
the falsity."

–Boundary_(ID_qFFjyzuHJ2gVEzE8WSa qsw)–