Sunday, January 11, 2009

Toward Multiculturalism? : Circassians Make Demands for Broadcast Time, Language Departments

From TDZ:
Last year Parliament passed a bill that allowed television broadcasting in languages other than Turkish -- specifically aimed at introducing Kurdish, Arabic and Farsi programming -- and this month TRT 6 began Kurdish programming to appeal to the nation’s 20 million Kurdish citizens. Work is also under way to create Kurdish literature and language departments in Turkish universities. Circassian Turks, who account for an estimated 6 million, are now asking for similar steps to be taken to recognize their culture.

On Monday, President Abdullah Gül received the heads of the Caucasian Associations Federation (an umbrella organization for 56 Circassian groups) at the Çankaya presidential palace. The representatives, Turkish citizens of Abkhazian background, told the president that Turkey had implemented a de facto embargo on Abkhazia and that they had started a signature campaign to reverse it.

The group presented a file to the president containing their requests, and Gül said he would look into and consider their requests. Caucasian Associations Federation Secretary-General Cumhur Bal told Today’s Zaman that the meeting had “passed positively,” adding: “The esteemed president has been informed on the topics. We didn’t see any hint of a negative reaction.”

According to Bal, Gül had responded positively in particular to their requests for Circassian language and literature departments in Ýstanbul and Ankara universities and broadcasts on TRT, saying, “Why not?” In his interview with Today’s Zaman, Bal said the TRT’s current once-a-week, half-hour broadcast in Circassian languages on Thursdays was insufficient. “The programs broadcast soccer match results from a week ago. We know Turkish, we already know about this. Our request is for programming containing news,” Bal explained.

Recalling that the newly started TRT 6 channel was to broadcast in many languages, Bal was quick to point out that his federation was not trying to constitute competition for Kurdish in TV broadcasting. “We see the start of Kurdish broadcasting positively. Broadcasting in Circassian can be on TRT 6 or on other channels. It’s not competition [with Kurdish broadcasting] -- it’s something that we also deserve,” he said, adding that broadcasting in native languages was a way to perpetuate culture and tradition.
For full article, click here.

Circassians comprise approximately 6 million of Turkey's estimated 72 million people. Hürriyet quotes MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, " "Everybody can speak in their mother tongue in their private lives. There is nobody preventing this, we respect this." The issue of using languages other than Turkish in the public sphere is widely opposed by those concerned that it will lead to the deterioration of Turkish nationality, which for many people underpins the basis of Turkish citizenship. Demands for cultural recognition from Circassians and other ethnic groups in addition to the country's Kurdish minority, which constitues 20 percent of its population, will prompt Turkey to give more thought to its accomodation of minorities.

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