Monday, November 8, 2010

"Unknown language" dilemma continues in Turkish courts

07 November 2010

The confusion is not lasting in courts where the demand for Kurdish defense is rejected for being “an unknown language”.

Last week Istanbul 11. High Criminal Court rejected Songül Sıcakyüz’s demand for defense in Kurdish. The prosecutor didn’t pass Sıcakyüz’s demand, saying that she spoke Turkish quite well, while the chief judge brought in something new by recording Sıcakyüz’s statements as “Verbalized in Kurdish, a language the court doesn’t understand”

The demand of Kurdish politicians who stand trial in so called KCK trial to make their defense in their mother tongue Kurdish, provided the inspiration for other Kurdish prisoners, who also started to make their defense speeches in Kurdish. However, just like in KCK case, this demand was refused also in other courts for various reasons like showing Kurdish as “an unknown language” or persisting in not writing Kurdish on official reports, while İstanbul 11. High Criminal Court brought in something new by giving Kurdish a new definition.

At the case of undergraduates Ruhat Taysun and Songül Sıcakyüz, who stand trial with the assertions of “being PKK members” and “committing crimes for the organization”, the court recorded the statement of two prisoners on official reports as “given in a language the court doesn’t understand”.

Zazaish interpreter demand rejected

During the case on 5 November, Ruhat Taysun gave his first statement in Turkish, saying that due to assimilation policies he had to give his statement in Turkish although he was a child of a Kurdish family and wanted to express himself in Kurdish, indeed. Following Taysun’s defense, other prisoner Songül Sıcakyüz demanded a Zazaish interpreter from the court board, saying; “I learned Turkish belatedly as I was born into a Kurdish family. That’s why I want to defend myself in Zazaish dialect of my mother tongue Kurdish, not in a language I learned belatedly. Sıcakyüz’s demand was refused by the court board.

“Answered in Kurdish, a language the court doesn’t understand”

Refusing the demand for self-defense in mother-tongue, the court asked Güleryüz if she would defend herself or not, for she would be considered as using the right to remain silent unless she defended herself in Turkish. The chief judge recorded Güleryüz’s answer “Ez dixwazim bi Kurdî bi axivim (I want to speak Kurdish)” as “Answered in Kurdish, a language the court doesn’t understand”. The same statement was written on the second report when Güleryüz was asked if she confirmed her previous statements at the police and prosecution office and gave her answer in Kurdish, as "Erê, rast e (Yes, right)”.

“Can someone not defend himself in Kurdish if he knows Turkish well?”

Following Güleryüz’s records, the prosecutor asked for refusal of the demand for defense in Kurdish, stating that the defendant received all her education in Turkish, adding that she gave her statement to police in Turkish. Prosecutor said; “It is clearly seen that the defendant expressed herself quite well in Turkish till her demand for defense in Kurdish”.

Translation: Berna Özgencil