After a 10-year delay, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has finally made an announcement that state schools will offer elective Kurdish courses. Many Kurdish nationalists find this step to be late and not enough. For instance, İsmail Beşikçi argues that Turkish should be elective in the predominantly Kurdish region and the language of education should be Kurdish. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), too, argues that the language of education in the Kurdish region should be Kurdish.
Turkey has finally reached a level in which to debate various issues concerning the Kurdish question in depth. More importantly, the state has realized the democratic demands and the AKP government has taken bold steps on that matter. Giving the right to learn the Kurdish language in state schools is a bold step. Yet the AKP government has long eschewed to provide such a right.
At this point one needs to think about the possible implications of the recent decisions on both parties, i.e., Turks and Kurds. Except for a few neo-nationalists, Turkish society has already understood the Kurdish demands. Thus, it is unlikely that Turks will resist the AKP’s decision. However, the battleground for Kurdish education has moved from the political level to the practical level. Many nationalist school principals would find a variety of nonsensical reasons to resist opening Kurdish classes in their schools. Kurdish nationalists would exploit local resistance and try to score points out of the resistance at the school level. Furthermore, in the Turkish school system, the Family School Union (Okul Aile Birliği) informal associations established to maintain ties with families and school administrations have some voice in schools’ preferences and they would make a lot of noise over opening Kurdish classes. In addition, limited school facilities and educators for teaching Kurdish would be two other “excuses” for school administrators to ignore the public demands. Thus, Kurdish nationalists would exploit this area as well.
Unless the Ministry of Education stays firm in its decision to open Kurdish classes, it will be very difficult to implement the political decision. On the Kurdish side, Kurdish nationalists would not welcome this decision. They face two challenges. First, many families do not care about Kurdish education. Only politicized families want their children to get a Kurdish education. Therefore, Kurdish nationalists will now turn to Kurdish society to “convince” them with various methods to make their children choose Kurdish language classes. Therefore, there would be internal confrontations between families who don’t care about Kurdish education and political networks that put pressure on families to promote Kurdish education.
Second, after things settle and calm down, it is expected that those who want to take Kurdish language courses will be a limited number, which will hamper the long-fought-for battle by Kurdish nationalists. Thus, once they see that people’s interest in Kurdish education is limited, they would try to discredit the government’s decision. Some have already started criticizing the decision as a method to “assimilate” Kurds and distance the Kurdish people from Kurdish organizations, i.e., the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the PKK and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), to assimilate them in a relaxed political climate.
All in all, the government decision to include Kurdish in the education curriculum was a good one, but there are many obstacles before the decision is implemented.