January 2, 2009
I argued a few years before that the only way for
Turkey to combat PKK's tv-station Roj TV, is to open
a Kurdish tv-channel. It seems that the AKP finally
decided to follow this cultural strategy to combat
the influence of the PKK-media. The Associated Press
reported that the channel is directed against the
According to the Star the channel is being billed as
a Kurdish version of the main Turkish language
channel TRT 1, with films, soap operas and talk
shows. It will not initially carry advertising.
Why Turkey does this?
1] AKP is losing support among Kurds due to a more
nationalist stance Turkish media reported. A Kurdish
TRT channel will result in more Kurdish votes, but
the launch of the channel was already planned
before. Elections will start in march 2009.
2] There are several Kurdish channels now from the
political parties PUK, PKK, KDP,www.ekurd.net
Komala, KDP-I from the
various Kurdish regions in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and
Iran. The Kurdish institute Paris is also setting up
a Kurdish channel (Kurd 1). It's only logical for
Turkey to trying to give a more positive view of
Turkey towards the Kurds in general.
3] It will give a good image to the EU.
4] It will be good for counterpropaganda against the
PKK. It's clear that the PKK is not amused. PKK
media called for a boycot of the TRT channel and
labelled it as a tv-station for traitors (Kurdish ‘jash’)
and an 'assimilation channel'. DTP-officials said
the TRT will be state propaganda in Kurdish. DTP
Batman mayoral candidate Nejdet Atalay even said
that they will use this channel to say that there
are no 'such thing as Kurds in Kurdish. Some
nationalistic Kurds from Iraq compared it to Saddam
Hussein's Kurdish tv-channel.
The American-Turkish lobby website Journal of
Turkish Weekly quoted expert Ihsan Bal: “The
problems nourishes the PKK. The Kurdish TV is like
an anti-dote against the PKK terrorism, that’s why
they are fully against anything to improve Kurdish
language by the State”.
Soft power of PKK
A Kurdish TRT channel could result in a weakening of
the soft power of the PKK: music. The PKK is quite
dominant among Kurdish cultural institutions from
Turkey and has a policy of trying to support Kurdish
artists and tie them to their political goals. Since
Kurdish artists faced severe restrictions in Turkey
and even punishment, several of them were forced to
go to the PKK (Aynur,www.ekurd.net
Ciwan Haco, etc).
Several PKK-artists sing praises to the PKK-leader
Ocalan. Both Roj TV and the Mesopotamia Music
Channel hosts PKK-supported artists.
An example of PKK's power is Siwan Perwer. Siwan
Perwer switched his support from the PKK to the KDP.
In return he faced a boycott from PKK-related media
and was even attacked by PKK loyalists in 2003.
Although the tensions between PKK and Perwer seemed
to have decreased, there are indications that Perwer
had secret meetings with AKP officials in Germany
and that his company Tewlo will produce programs for
TRT. Soon he will hold a press conference about his
If a Kurdish TRT channel is established, this could
establish financial opportunities for Kurdish
artists to become independent from PKK institutions.
TRT is already trying to convince Ciwan Haco to
support it's channel. Haco performed on PKK
festivals before. TRT also used the music of the
DTP-supported Rojda. Kurdish artist Nilufer Akbal
said that Kurdish artists can now come to TRT, now
Kurds have Kurdish tv, what do they want more? She
will have her own program on TRT. The KDP-supported
Netkurd website is quite positive about the new TRT
Criticism: Kurdish still
According to the independent Turkish journalist
Cengiz Candar the impact of the channel will be
Kurdish intellectual Tarik Ziya Ekinci told Today's
Zaman that there are still cultural restrictions.
"This is an important step, but the legal basis
should also be provided. You do this at one point,
but in some other place, a judge convicts someone
for singing a song in Kurdish. Steps that would
establish this as the overall state mentality in the
citizens' viewpoints are needed. Without doing
Kurdish TV is starting
from the end."
Some argue that Turkey first has to accept Kurdish
identity before broadcasting in Kurdish. Still the
Kurdish letters (Q, X and W), political speeches in
Kurdish are forbidden, there is no state education
in Kurdish and Kurdish villages and cities cannot
have Kurdish names. Sometimes there also problems
with Kurdish names for children. Ex-mayor Abdullah
Demirbas argued that Turkey used to offend Kurds in
Turkish and will now offend Kurds in Turkish. He
also cynically noticed that there are still no
Kurdish education opportunities.
According to the pro-PKK op-ed on Kurdmania Kurds
are still discriminated. Also the EU MP Joost
Lagendijk thinks that 'Kurdish is still forbidden'.
Mustafa Akyol claims that you cannot say in Kurdish
Göksel Bozkurt wrote in Hurriyet that 'whatever
efforts Parliament has made on strengthening Kurdish
culture, the prevailing mentality has been exposed
in an official record that referred to a Kurdish
greeting as, "A statement made in an unknown
language."' Despite the fact that AKP was working on
a Kurdish tv-channel.
The test broadcasts can be seen live here.
Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a former Turkology and
History student. Currently busy with minor
Journalism in Leiden and Language and Culture
studies in Utrecht. Experience with lectures,
conferences and articles.
Copyright, respective author or news agency,
** Kurds are not recognized as an official minority
in Turkey and are denied rights granted to other
minority groups. Under EU pressure, Turkey recently
granted Kurds limited rights for broadcasts and
education in the Kurdish language, but critics say
the measures do not go far enough.
The use of the term "Kurdistan" is vigorously
rejected due to its alleged political implications
by the Republic of Turkey, which does not recognize
the existence of a "Turkish Kurdistan" Southeast
Others estimate over 40 million Kurds live in Big
Kurdistan (Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia),
which covers an area as big as France, about half of
all Kurds which estimate to 20 million live in
Turkey is home to 25 million ethnic Kurds, a large
Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with
the Kurdish PKK for a Kurdish homeland in the
country's mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.
Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed
severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish language,
prohibiting the language in education and broadcast
media. The Kurdish alphabet is still not recognized
in Turkey, and use of the Kurdish letters X, W, Q
which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet has led
to judicial persecution in 2000 and 2003
The Kurdish flag flown officially in Iraqi Kurdistan
but unofficially flown by Kurds in Armenia. The flag
is banned in Iran, Syria, and Turkey where flying it
is a criminal offence"
North Kurdistan (