Seasonal workers attacked by locals in southwest Turkey for speaking Kurdish

Three Kurdish seasonal workers were allegedly attacked on Monday for speaking Kurdish by a group of locals in Bodrum, a popular tourist destination in southwestern Turkey, the Rûdaw news website reported.

Mehmet Şakir Balta and two of his relatives came from the southeastern city of Siirt 20 days ago to work at a construction site in the Turgutreis neighborhood of Bodrum.

“They first shouted at us while we were speaking Kurdish in the cafeteria. Then a large group attacked us. They had shotguns, knives and iron bars,” Balta told Rûdaw.

The three Balta family members were reportedly injured in the altercation and treated at a local hospital.

Turkish authorities have increasingly restricted the use of Kurdish in recent years. Hate crimes against Kurds for speaking their language have also increased. In 2020, another Kurdish seasonal farm worker, Şirin Tosun (19), was shot dead in Sakarya for speaking to his friends in Kurdish.

Authorities frequently claim that people speaking or singing in Kurdish are actually chanting slogans in support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which 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.

In June Turkish authorities detained 10 people during a wedding in Istanbul for wearing traditional Kurdish scarves in the colors of the Kurdish flag.

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.

Since an attempted coup in July 2016, the Turkish government has shut down a number of Kurdish language institutes, dailies, websites and TV stations as part of a crackdown targeting the Kurdish political movement.

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