Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Let's Be Kurdish

The Young Civilians (see April 9 post) are at it again. . .

From Today's Zaman:
A group of youth spent their May 19, Youth and Sports Day, in southeastern Turkey, highlighting the unity of the Turkish and Kurdish communities.

"We had a forum in Diyarbakır with university students on the Kurdish issue and are now on our way to Midyat," said Yasemin Demir from Mardin in a phone interview with Today's Zaman.
The group's members spent a few nights in the homes of poor families to learn about Kurdish culture and traditions, said Demir, a 25-year-old woman who works in a bank in İstanbul and is an active participant with the Young Civilians (Genç Siviller), a Turkish nongovernmental group noted for its use of sarcasm in protests.

The Young Civilians organized a series of workshops, called "Let's be Kurdish," that deal with Kurdish cuisine, language and songs and in the process memorized Kurdish songs and cooked Kurdish dinners. The group says Turks don't know as much about the Kurdish culture as they do about, for example, the Japanese culture -- even though Kurds are much closer to Turks in that respect.

"We are finishing the workshops today and having an alternate May 19," said Erkan Şen, 23, a student at İstanbul University's department of law.

Rejecting wearing the "uniforms of anyone," Young Civilians started as a group of students and held one of their earliest protests in the early 2000s. Instead of stadium shows, the traditional May 19 celebration, the group has been organizing alternative festivities in Turkey's various provinces.

"We have a desire to free the youth festivities from the way they were celebrated in stadiums -- where young people are not treated as individuals. I participated in a few of these stadium shows when I was in high school and I know the psychology of the students, ready to take commands and do what they are told," said Rasim Ozan Kütahyalı, a 27-year-old screenplay writer from İzmir.

He said Young Civilians seek to have May 19 festivities be a tool for all youth, whether Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, observant Muslims or not, to take control of their own future. "To the contrary," he added "young people face an increasingly polarized society in Turkey."

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