04/21/2024 - 11:00

On February 9, we convened for our third network meeting titled “Struggles Against Obstacles Before the Mother Tongue as a Universal Human Right” organized as part of the Haklara Destek program. Bringing together 39 individuals from organizations dedicated to advocating for mother tongue as a universal human right, the meeting was held at Mordem in Diyarbakır. The meeting was held in Kurdish and simultaneous interpretation in English and Turkish were provided. 

Özgür Güneş Göktürk, contributing to the meeting from Barcelona, talked about the Catalan experience. Cultural Research Center for Peace (Barış için Kültürel Araştırmalar Derneği, bakad), Diyarbakır Association for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets (Diyarbakır Kültür ve Tabiat Varlıklarını Koruma Derneği, DKVD), Diyarbakır Institute for Political and Social Research (Diyarbakır Siyasal ve Sosyal Araştırmalar, DİSA), Migration and Humanitarian Aid Foundation (Göç ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, GİYAV), Human Rights Association Diyarbakır Branch (İnsan Hakları Derneği Diyarabakır Şubesi), İsmail Beşikçi Foundation (İsmail Beşikçi Vakfı, İBV), Kurdish Research Association (Kürt Araştırmaları Derneği), Mesopotamia Education Science Art Health and Culture Foundation (Mezopotamya Eğitim Bilim Sanat Sağlık ve Kültür Vakfı), Mordem Art and Ecological Life Association (Mordem Sanat ve Ekolojik Yaşam Derneği), Children First Association (Önce Çocuklar Derneği), Roma Youth Association (Roman Gençlik Derneği), and Yayla (Gola) Culture, Art, and Ecology Association (Yayla Gola Kültür, Sanat ve Ekoloji Derneği) participated in the meeting. Additionally, ANKA Cooperative (Anka Kooperatifi), Digital Media Association (Dijital Medya Derneği), Kurdish Studies Center (Kürt Çalışmaları Merkezi), Kurdish Language and Culture Network (Kürt Dili ve Kültürü Ağı), VATE Publishing House (VATE Yayınevi), and Zan Foundation (Zan Vakfı) accepted our invitation and offered their contributions in the meeting. 

The meeting was hybrid. Özgür Güneş Öztürk participated the meeting online. Following the opening remarks by David D. Bartlett from Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Eda Köse, a field worker of Haklara Destek, led a brief activity to facilitate participant introductions.

After the introduction session, a two-hour panel titled “Experiences from the Struggles for Mother Tongue as a Universal Human Rights” took place. Özgür Güneş Öztürk was joined by TJA activist Hacer Özdemir in the discussion about the dynamics of feminist struggle and the struggle for mother tongue as a universal human right within Kurdish context. Osman Akyıl from the Mesopotamia Foundation also contributed to the panel, shedding light on the role of civil society and political actors in resisting the assimilationist politics and state policies regarding the Kurdish language.

In the first panel moderated by Zozan Bilge, a field worker of Haklara Destek, we listened to Osman Akyıl’s talk on the enduring struggle and resistance of the Kurdish language against assimilationist policies alongside the pivotal role of the civil society and political representation in the struggle. Akyıl provided a historical context and going back to the proclamation of the Republic highlighted the effects of bans and restrictions on language in the last century. Emphasizing the crucial task of passing knowledge to younger generations, he underscored the collective nature of today’s struggle for the universal right to mother tongue. Underlining that the struggle for mother tongue as a universal right is a struggle that must be waged together, Akyıl identified education as a key avenue for preserving the vitality of the Kurdish language. Moreover, Osman Akyıl, representing the newly established Kurdish Studies Network, shared insights into the establishment of the network which was born out of necessity and extensive deliberations. He outlined the network’s objectives and plans, highlighting its formation as a collaborative effort among founding associations with diverse perspectives. He stated the network is formed by associations which adopt different perspective came together.

During the talk led by our second panelist, TJA activist Hacer Özdemir, we explored the contributions of feminist struggle to the discussion on the right to mother tongue. We delved into the pivotal role of language activism within the Kurdish women’s movement and its profound implications for gender equality. Özdemir began her talk by illuminating the intrinsic link between language and culture, and the pivotal role of women in the transmission of both language and culture. She shed light on the impact of assimilationist policies and instances of auto-assimilation, underscoring how Kurdish language was preserved and owned within the households, particularly by women who imparted Kurdish langauge to the next generation through verbal means such as lullabies. Moreover, Özdemir emphasized the guiding slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” and articulated the imperative of insisting on advocating for the Kurdish language. She concluded her talk by invoking the title of our 7th newsletter, “Where there is no mother tongue, life cannot be fully organized.”

In our final event, we engaged in a conversation with Özgür Güneş Öztürk, exploring the historical context of language bans and repression during and after the Franco era. Öztürk drew parallels between the struggles for Catalan and Kurdish languages, highlighting both their divergent paths and shared challenges. Özgür elucidated how these languages, once relegated to the private domain, faced deliberate attempts to erase them from collective memory, emphasizing the ongoing efforts of Catalan exile intellectuals in preserving their linguistic heritage. Furthermore, Öztürk underscored the significance of leveraging digital activism and tools to bridge generational divides and sustain linguistic vitality. The day ended with a group workshop led by Balacan Ayar and Olcay Özer from Haklara Destek team. Participants came together for group discussions centered around (1) gender studies for mother tongue as a universal right, (2) international and local networks and collaborations, (3) lobbying and advocacy, and (4) initiatives promoting education in mother tongue. The insights and deliberations from these discussions were subsequently shared with all participants, fostering an inclusive dialogue on these topics.

We would like to thank again all the organizations that participated in the network meeting for their valuable comments and contributions. We would also like to thank the Mordem team for hosting our meeting.