In and of itself, that's cool enough (try saying it: I'm from Batman), but there's more to the story than that. Via Kurdish Media.com, this story, originally published in The Economist (I looked but couldn't find it online there), says that the situation of Kurds in Southern Turkey may be gradually improving. That's certainly good news, although the yardstick is ... well, judge for yourself:
As Turkey ploughs on with efforts to qualify to join the European Union, the effects of reforms enacted over the past year by the conservative government led by Tayyip Erdogan are being felt, sometimes in surprising ways, in the largely Kurdish south-east. A new porn video, Xashiki Kaliki (Grandad’s Fantasies) is selling well: until recently, it would have been banned, not for its content but for being in the Kurdish language.
Lest one think that the article doesn't make a more serious point, it goes on to note
More significantly, Turkey’s 14m Kurds are able for the first time to learn their own dialects through a handful of privately run courses.
In the town of Batman, Aydin Unesi, a Kurdish-language teacher, says 200 students have enrolled since his school opened its doors last month. A giant sign reading “Kurdish language course”, painted in the previously banned Kurdish national colours, marks the building in Batman’s central square. In October the local governor invited a Kurdish bard, Mahsun Kirmizigul, to perform before a crowd of 150,000 to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic. His opening number was in Kurdish.
Such examples of tolerance may, however, mislead. Mr Unesi’s students have yet to begin their lessons. “That is because the authorities keep throwing up new bureaucratic hurdles,” he complains. First he was told to broaden doors to his classrooms and hang up more Turkish flags. Then he was told to build a fire escape “even though we have two of them and inspectors saw them.” Faced with such obstacles, not a single Kurdish-language course has held classes so far. The laws have changed, but the authoritarian mentality of local officials has not.
Hearts and minds are always harder to change than laws. It's also interesting to note the difference from the Kurdish situation in Turkey (one could include Syria and Iran as well) to that in Iraq:
The American-led occupation of Iraq, viscerally opposed by most Turks, has provided some relief for the Kurds. Around 3,500 Turkish lorries carrying food, fuel and other non-combat matériel for the Americans cross daily in and out of Iraq from the south-eastern province of Sirnak. The Americans have bought $150m-worth of Turkish goods since the end of the war, some of it from the south-east; more Turkish contracts worth some $400m are in the pipeline. But the Kurdish truck drivers who carry the stuff also see the freedom being enjoyed by their fellow Kurds in northern Iraq, who have been running their own affairs outside Baghdad’s control for over a decade. Kurdish-language porn may no longer be enough to satisfy them.
Nor should it be, nor should it be...
Update: Whoops, here's the link to The Economist's version of the story; unfortunately, it's pay per view...Posted by Ideofact at December 12, 2003 10:28 PM