|Turkey Pummels Freedom of Expression, Again|
It has come to the attention of KHRP that the Turkish Ministry of the Interior has called on the State Council for the dissolution of the Sur Municipality in Diyarbakir and the dismissal of its mayor Abdullah Demirbas.
This follows a decision by the Municipal authorities in October 2006 to provide its citizens with multilingual municipal services, in order to properly address the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual makeup of the municipality. A 2006 survey on the linguistic composition of the municipality put the proportion of those speaking Turkish at 24%, Kurdish at 72%, Arabic at 1% and Syriac and Armenian dialects at 3%. In reaction to these findings a report by the municipality's Commission on Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism decided that there was a ‘need for a more participatory understanding of municipal service provision… in order to provide healthier and better municipal services for the local people and to render educational, cultural and artistic activities locally more accessible'. The council therefore approved the future provision of multilingual services.
Mayor Demirbas is a well respected advocate of cultural and linguistic rights and had done much for the protection and promotion of the cultural and language heritage of his municipality, from the publication of children's books in several languages to this latest municipal services initiative. This move against his municipality by the Ministry of the Interior is not only illegal, in that it bypasses all standard legal and legislative measures taken in response to alleged inappropriate municipal council activity, but also flies blatantly in the face of the democratic wishes of the municipality's citizens.
The attempts by the Ministry of the Interior to halt this initiative in Diyarbakir - an initiative which explicitly states that Turkish continues to be the official language of the municipality - is the latest example of the central government's inflexible and intolerant stance on cultural rights, and its refusal to grant true democracy, where all of its citizens can be active participants. In reaction to the news KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz stated ‘these moves by the Ministry of the Interior are unacceptable in a democratic society. They are a clear attack on freedom of expression and a denial of the cultural and linguistic rights of the Kurds'.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Walter Jayawardene/ Kerim Yildiz
Kurdish Human Rights Project
Kurdish Human Rights Project is an independent, non-political human rights organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of the human rights of all people in the Kurdish regions. It is a registered charity, founded and based in London
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