Istanbul municipality to offer free Kurdish courses

The municipality of Istanbul is preparing to offer free Kurdish courses through the city’s long-running Centre for Art and Vocational Training Courses (ISMEK) programme. 

The leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu made the announcement on the new addition to İSMEK’s extensive line-up of courses on Wednesday, during a meeting with graduates from the country’s Kurdish language and literature programmes, left-wing news site Duvar reported.

The course follows a call by Kılıçdaroğlu in the run-up to the Istanbul mayoral revote in June for Turkey to recognize the use of the Kurdish language in civic institutions and education. 

“It is an indispensible right for people to learn, read and write in their own language. This includes Kurdish,’’ the CHP leader said. 

The CHP has made steps in recent electoral periods to embrace the country’s Kurdish population, who account for an estimated 15 percent of the country. The CHP worked with the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) on a joint election strategy in this year’s March 31 local elections to capitalise on growing dissatisfaction with how the ruling Justice and Development Party has handled Turkey’s troubled economy.

Kurdish votes played a vital role in local polls in Turkey’s major provinces on March 31, particularly in Istanbul and Ankara.

Kılıçdaroğlu said that legal measures at the parliamentary level would solve problem around the recognition of the Kurdish language in Turkey, however, courses such as the one being offered by İSMEK are a way for İstanbul opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu to play a role in a solution.

İSMEK, which was established in 1996 when Erdoğan served as mayor of the city, provides free vocational courses on a wide array of subjects for those looking to gain skills toward a profession or improve their skills in their current jobs.