Council members sentenced to prison over park named after Kurdish poet

Council members sentenced to prison over park named after Kurdish poet

Mukaddes Kubilay

June 03, 2011, Friday/ 17:23:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Members of the Doğubeyazıt Municipal Council in Ağrı province were given one-month, 20-day jail sentences, while the district's mayor was sentenced to six months in prison for naming a park in their district after Kurdish poet and philosopher Ehmedê Xanî.

Doğubeyazıt Municipality named a new municipal park opened four years ago after Xanî, the, writer of the epic “Mem û Zîn,” a book that was translated into Turkish and distributed by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Copies of the book were distributed by Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay in Parliament in what was a first in Turkish political history. The “X” in Xanî's name was problematic, according to a prosecutor, who took the park's name to the Doğubeyazıt Criminal Court of 1st Instance in 2008. The final verdict was given on May 3, 2011, with the court handing down the sentences to Mayor Mukaddes Kubilay and the municipal council members from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) for their “responsibility” in naming the park a word that has the letter “x” in it, which the court found is in violation of an earlier republican era law on the Turkish script.

The mayor and the council members were also ordered to pay a TL 3,000 each. Both the jail sentences and the monetary fines were suspended.

Xanî's “Mem û Zîn,” an epic love story, is considered as one of the most important works in Kurdish literature. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan quoted lines from it during an election rally and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism published a Turkish translation.

Murat Roha Özbay, a lawyer for the defendants, said that the letters, x, w and q, although not included in the 29-letter Turkish alphabet, are used frequently in all public agencies with no legal consequences. He noted that the state-owned Kurdish language TRT-6 station frequently made use of the “banned letters.” He said the court ruling was hypocritical, adding, “If it is really a crime, then we will file criminal complaints against the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The law on the acceptation and usage of the Turkish alphabet and other laws like it have lost their meaning.” He said they will appeal the case.

He also said they were going to petition the Ankara Prosecutor's Office and the Doğubeyazıt Prosecutor's Office for an explanation of why an early republican era law that makes it compulsory to wear hats for men is not enforced in our day.

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