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Turkey

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

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation

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Russia

How The War In Ukraine Could Overturn Everyone's Plans For The Arctic

Russia owns 60% of Arctic coastline and half of the region's population. In recent history, NATO has not been overly concerned with the defense of the Arctic region because the U.S. military has been focused on the Middle East. This is all changing since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Photo of employees walking through frozen installations at the Utrenneye field in Murmansk Region, Russia.

At the Utrenneye field in Murmansk Region, Russia.

Kateryna Mola

-Analysis-

KYIV — As important as the Arctic is for studying climate control and ecology, various states have eyes on it for another reason: resources. Climate change has made the Arctic more accessible for mining, and much of that area is in the Russian Arctic. In order to exploit these potential natural resources, Russia turned to foreign investors and foreign technology, from both the West and China. The war in Ukraine is throwing all of that into question.

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine will have a profoundly devastating impact on the development of Russian Arctic infrastructure, as well as shipping routes through the Arctic. Western companies have left or are about to leave the market, and counter-sanctions threaten those who still cooperate with the Russians.

Given that Russia does not produce the sophisticated equipment to operate in such a complex region and soon will not even be able to repair the equipment it possesses, we can expect Russia's activity in the Arctic to slow down.

Yet, Vladimir Putin has continued to emphasize the Arctic as a priority region, and extended invitations to cooperate to both India and China.

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