Majority of Turks support education in mother tongue

Majority of Turks support education in mother tongue

Around 200 people held a demonstration in İstanbul’s Taksim Square last year, demanding freedom for education in one’s mother tongue. The demonstrators carried banners in Turkish and Kurdish. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

March 26, 2012, Monday/ 17:48:00/ FATMA DİŞLİ ZIBAK

The majority of Turks believe that as long as they learn Turkish, all school students should be able to access education in their mother tongue, a survey conducted by the Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center in February has revealed.

The survey, which involved 1,174 respondents across all 39 districts of İstanbul, aimed to examine public opinion on a wide range of issues, such as accessing education in one’s mother tongue, the state granting legal status to Alevi cemevis [places of worship] and the Uludere incident.

When asked about their views regarding children receiving education in their mother tongue on the condition that they learn Turkish, 61.7 percent of respondents said they supported the proposal, while 35.8 percent did not. Only 2.6 percent either refused to give an answer or said they did not know.

Public support for providing education in citizens’ mother tongues was the highest among the supporters of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) at 94.7 percent, followed by Justice and Development Party (AK Party) supporters with 62.2 percent, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) with 59.6 percent and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with 50 percent.

The use of languages other than Turkish in the public education system has long been debated in Turkey. The BDP and its predecessors have been calling for the right to an education in one’s mother tongue for a long time, while the majority of Parliament opposes it. Participants in the survey were also asked about their views regarding Alevi demands for state recognition of cemevis as places of worship.

A full 54.9 percent of respondents said they support state recognition of cemevis as places of worship, while 35.6 percent said they are against it.

For many years, Alevis in Turkey have been demanding that the state legally recognize cemevis.

The killing of 34 civilians smuggling goods from northern Iraq in December 2011 by Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) warplanes after they were mistakenly identified as members of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was also among the issues examined by the survey. When asked who they think was responsible for the Uludere incident, 14.5 percent said it was the state, 11.5 percent said it was the people of the region or the smugglers, 9.5 percent said it was the PKK, 5.4 percent said it was the prime minister or the government and only 4.9 percent said it was the General Staff.

In response to another question asking whether the government has fulfilled all its responsibilities regarding the Uludere incident, 45 percent replied in the affirmative while 38.1 percent said “no.”

The government has paid compensation to families of the victims of the Uludere incident. Only one regional commander was removed from his post following the attack. There are still a number of ongoing investigations to find out who is responsible, but civil society groups are demanding that the interior minister and the air forces commander resign.

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