Pro-gov’t TV station censors woman speaking in Kurdish during daytime reality show

A pro-government TV station in Turkey cut the sound while airing one of its daytime reality shows because a woman started speaking in Kurdish, in the latest example of suppression of the Kurdish language in the country, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Rudaw news website.

According to Rudaw, the daytime program, “Esra Erol’da” (at Esra Erol’s), on ATV on Tuesday showed the reunion of Besime Toma with her 21-year-old daughter Gülay, who had been missing for years.

The mother reportedly hugged her daughter and started crying and speaking to her in Kurdish, at which point ATV briefly cut the sound on the show, censoring Toma’s words.

The daughter explained that her mother didn’t know much Turkish, Rudaw said, quoting host Esra Erol as saying to her, “Aunt Besime, I know you feel sorry for your daughter. But I also want to understand [what you’re saying].”

Necdet İpekyüz, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), criticized ATV for censorship of the Kurdish language, saying they have an editorial policy that allows them to censor a mother’s words to her child in her mother tongue at their most touching moment.

“If the purpose is to understand [the conversation], translation is also being done [by Gülay]. Why is a Kurdish mother forced to speak in Turkish?” İpekyüz added, addressing Erol.

“We reject this offensive approach. It’s a disgrace, it’s a sin, it’s a shame,” Ali Babacan, leader of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), said in a tweet in both Kurdish and Turkish.

Saying that access to the video showing the censorship of the Kurdish language on ATV was blocked, journalist İrfan Aktan added, referring to the government, “Everyone saw that the face you’ve been trying to hide was real. And you’ve seen that your racism will never be accepted and that you won’t be allowed to normalize it.”

The Kars Bar Association also said they strongly condemned what they described as an act of “intolerance towards Kurdish” and “an attack on the culture of living together [peacefully]” that came at a time when the state itself founded a Kurdish-language TV channel, TRT Kurdi.

Throughout most of the 20th century, successive governments have imposed outright bans on or suppression of the Kurdish language in Turkey.

Since an attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in July 2016, the government has shut down a number of Kurdish language institutes, dailies, websites and TV channels as part of a crackdown targeting the Kurdish political movement.

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