Prison authorities subject former HDP deputy Leyla Güven to disciplinary action for singing in Kurdish

Leyla Güven, a former deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was the subject of disciplinary action for singing in Kurdish in a prison in eastern Elazığ province, the Duvar news website reported.

Güven’s daughter Sabiha Temizkan said yesterday on Twitter that her mother’s visitation and telephone privileges had been revoked. “My mother will not be able to see or speak to her family for a month because she sang in Kurdish,” said Temizkan.

Prison authorities prepared a report on August 16 saying nine inmates, including Güven, had been singing songs in an “unknown language.” Authorities also claimed the inmates chanted slogans that supported the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK has been leading an armed insurgency against Turkey’s security forces since the ’80s in a campaign that has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people. The group is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the US.

The report was shared with the media by Güven’s lawyer. The inmates were told to prepare a defense in three days.

Authorities have increasingly restricted the use of Kurdish in recent years, and prisons have been no exception. Hate crimes against Kurds for speaking their language have also increased.

According to a recent report by the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) some prisons will not even deliver letters that contain Kurdish words or phrases. Prisoners were told if they received letters with Kurdish words, they would have to pay for a translation so the warden could monitor the content of the letters. Prices were set as high as $50 per page.

Destina Yıldız from the ÖHD said this was an unusual practice clearly aimed at discouraging the use of Kurdish. “Normally prisons should have somebody for translations if they want to translate letters. It is up to the prison to make the arrangements,” she said.

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.

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