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Talkin' Kurdish Blues - Turkey Hopes Language Classes Can Ease Ethnic Tensions

Prime Minister Erdogan has confirmed the introduction of Kurdish language elective classes, beginning in the fifth grade, hoping to placate the country's largest minority. But some Kurds are hardly satisfied.

Kurdish school girls (daweiding)
Kurdish school girls (daweiding)

ANKARA - Kurdish language courses will be introduced in Turkey's schools in an attempt to democratize the education system and ease tensions with the country's largest minority, which accounts for nearly 20% of the population.

"Kurdish will be taught as an elective lesson if there is a sufficient number of students' demanding it, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared in his weekly address to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Parliament on Monday.

The Minister of Education, Omer Dincer, is currently in talks with middle schools across the country regarding the logistics of the elective courses, with details expected to be finalized by the end of the month.

The Education Ministry expects high demand for the language courses in Eastern Turkey, where the majority of the Kurdish population resides.

The Kurdish courses will start from the fifth grade and will be available for 4 to 6 hours per week, alongside other language electives including English, German and French. High school students will also be able to opt for Kurdish lessons for 3 to 4 hours per week. Kurdish CDs and DVDs are being prepared as learning aids for electives, to assist with diction and vocabulary.

Erdogan has called the move a "historic step," as it will be the first time in Turkey's history that another ethnic language will be taught in public schools.

The ruling AKP party has taken several steps over recent years to meet Kurdish demands, including establishing a state Kurdish broadcaster and allowing the Kurdish language to be taught privately.

Still, the initiatives fall short of Kurdish demands, according to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy (BDP) party. The Kurdish population wants their language to be recognized as an official language of Turkey.

"There is nothing as despotic as teaching a mother tongue as an elective course," said Gultan Kısanak, co-chairperson of the BDP. "How can you conduct such cruelty toward Kurds? In addition, it will only be offered after fifth grade; meaning, ‘First be assimilated and then learn your mother tongue."

Kısanak compared the plan to Germany's practices toward Turks. "When Erdogan was in Germany he was saying, ‘Assimilation is a crime against humanity." Yes, he is right, but now he is committing the same crime."

The introduction of Kurdish elective courses is part of a new education reform known as the "4+4+4 system," which is paving the way for more students to have the option of choosing imam-hatip schools (religious vocational schools) and introducing religious studies as electives in public schools.

As a part of the new reform, electives will also be offered in other religions such as Christianity and Judaism, while authorities also consider classes on human rights and citizenship.

Read the original article in Turkish

Photo - Flickr/daweiding

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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