A group of university students in Turkey’s southern Karaman province were attacked by the far-right ultranationalist Grey Wolves for dancing to Kurdish music, the Evrensel daily reported.
The students were dancing in the university dorm when the Grey Wolves group allegedly forced them inside a small room and beat them. The also confiscated the students’ telephones and wrote, “We apologize to the Turkish public for our immoral behavior,” on their social media accounts.
Kurds in Turkey are often pressured not to speak their native language. Authorities frequently claim that people speaking in Kurdish are actually chanting slogans in support of the outlawed 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.
Prohibitions against the use of Kurdish in Turkey go back many years. Kurdish language, clothing, folklore and names had been banned in 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.
Traumatized by the attack, one of the students quit university and returned to his hometown of Diyarbakır in southeastern Turkey. The student’s parents filed a complaint against the perpetrators.
The incident took place on April 1 but was made public last Thursday after Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu discussed it in the Turkish Parliament.
Gergerlioğlu said Kurds faced many problems in Turkey and that the latest incident clearly showed these problems were far from being solved. “A young man had to quit his studies and go back to his hometown just because he was dancing to a Kurdish folk song. How can this be possible?” he asked.
The Diyarbakır Bar Association issued a statement on their Twitter account saying they condemned the attack on the students. “Authorities need to conduct an effective investigation into the incident,” they said. “This was clearly a hate crime that targeted Kurdish people and their culture. Those politicians who use polarizing language are to blame for such incidents.”
The statement criticized the judiciary, saying they protected perpetrators of hate crime by granting them impunity.
Kürt Kimliğine ve Diline Yönelik Irkçı Saldırıyı Kınıyoruz. pic.twitter.com/vdIaYK3plX
— Diyarbakır Barosu İnsan Hakları Merkezi (@dbinsanhaklari) April 9, 2022
The Karaman Governor’s Office issued a statement saying no such incident had occurred on the university premises. However, they did acknowledge that a group of 15 people had gathered in front of the dormitory but had been dispersed by the police.
In a controversial move Karaman University Rector Namık Ak visited the Grey Wolves’ Karaman office.
The Grey Wolves are linked to the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Earlier last year, the European Parliament called on the European Union and its member states to examine the possibility of adding the Grey Wolves to the EU terrorist list.
In its 2019-2020 report prepared by Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor, the EP voiced concerns about the group, saying it was expanding to worrying levels not only in Turkey but also in EU countries.