Dr. Bekir Tank, a history professor at İstanbul Commerce University, was dismissed from his job on August 31 for giving an assignment to his students that involved translating the Turkish National Anthem and founder of the Turkish Republic Kemal Atatürk’s “Address to Youth” into Kurdish, according to Turkish media.
Dr. Tank requested that his students translate the two texts in February 2017 to raise awareness about the Kurdish language. His request was reported by the student council. In a statement posted on their social media account the student council said, “We believe the assignment by Dr. Tank had sinister intentions, and we have taken the necessary steps against his separatist actions.”
Dr. Tank received an official reprimand from the rector’s office after an inquiry. His lessons were cancelled and he was later told that his contract would not be extended due to his academic performance.
In a column in the Doğruhaber newspaper, Dr. Tank said this was the result an assimilation policy that the state had forced on the Kurdish population. “The university, which should be an institution of critical thinking, has interpreted my assignment as separatist propaganda. If we can speak German, Arabic, Farsi and English at the university, then why not Kurdish?”
Prohibitions against the use of Kurdish in Turkey go back many years. Kurdish language, clothing, folklore and names had been banned since 1937. The words “Kurds,” “Kurdistan” and “Kurdish” were among those officially prohibited. After a military coup in 1980, speaking Kurdish was officially forbidden even in private life.
Many people who spoke, broadcast or sang in Kurdish were imprisoned. The ban officially continued until 1991. Kurds continue their struggle for Kurdish education in schools in the regions where they live. Between 2010 and 2014, when an attempt was made to solve Turkey’s Kurdish problem by means of an official “peace process,” lectures were given in Kurdish in some schools, and Kurdish signs were installed in the cities. These rights were taken back after the failure of the peace talks in 2015.