University students face terror charges for singing in Kurdish
Turkish authorities have accused 12 university students of being member of a terrorist organisation for singing a song in Kurdish during celebrations for Newroz, the Kurdish new year, in the southern province of Antalya, the Kurdish news agency Mezopotamya reported on Tuesday.
The students are accused of being members of the youth wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a 35-year insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey, Mezopotamya said.
The evidence against the students includes video footage of them singing a song in Kurdish called Mervano, the news agency reported.
It also includes the presence on one of the students’ phones of a picture of Hacı Osman Birlik, a Kurdish man who was killed while breaking a curfew in 2015 in the southeastern province of Şırnak during a Turkish military operation against the PKK. Police filmed themselves tying Birlik’s corpse to an armoured vehicle and dragging it through the streets after they killed him.
The Kurdish language has been criminalised off and on since the earliest years of the Turkish Republic. In 2012, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) began granting greater freedoms to the Kurdish culture.
But the repression has returned since the mid-2015 breakdown of the peace process between Turkey and the PKK. Police and prosecutors have often interpreted the use of Kurdish and displays of Kurdish identity including songs as tantamount to support for the PKK.