Workers prohibited from speaking in Kurdish at İstanbul construction site

A construction company in İstanbul has sent a letter to one of its subcontracting firms saying that no language other than Turkish should be spoken on the construction site.

The company, Yapı&Yapı, in İstanbul’s Başakşehir district said in its letter that its employees are uneasy with the speaking of another language among workers on the site.

The company’s ban, which is apparently aimed at Kurdish because most of the construction workers are from Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, has attracted widespread criticism.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu said in a message from his Twitter account, “Kurdish is one of the mother languages of the citizens of this country, and it is not a ‘different’ language’ and people cannot be arbitrarily banned from speaking it.”

Kurdish language and culture have been de facto criminalized since the earliest years of the Turkish Republic.

Turkey’s current Constitution, ratified after the military coup of 1980, recognizes only Turkish as the country’s official language.

Until a short while ago, the speaking of Kurdish in public was outlawed, and people were arrested for even so much as the possession of a Kurdish music cassette.

In recent years, many restrictions on Kurdish were loosened as part of the so-called “Kurdish Initiative,” first announced by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in 2009.

However, following a failed military coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, many Kurdish media outlets were closed down along with dozens of others, and restrictions on the speaking of Kurdish began to be observed again in daily life.

Meanwhile on Friday, the Bitlis 2nd High Criminal Court sentenced İhsan Uğur, former co-mayor of the Hizan district of Bitlis province, to 12 years, four months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda.”

Uğur attended the final session of the trial via closed-circuit camera and denied the allegations. Uğur was detained on Dec. 14, 2016 and is currently incarcerated in Diyarbakır D Type Prison. (SCF with

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