'World Mother Language Day' panel: There is a linguistic genocide in Turkey


ISTANBUL- In the panel organized by Newspaper Sabro, SUDEF and IHD within the scope of World Mother Language Day, it was pointed out that a linguistic genocide was taking place in Turkey and it was emphasized that the people should show a common struggle on this issue.

Newspaper Sabro, Syriac Associations Federation (SUDEF) and Human Rights Association (IHD) Istanbul Branch held a panel titled "The Past and Present of Syriac on World Mother Language Day" at the IHD building in Beyoğlu, within the scope of February 21 World Mother Language Day.
The panel, which consisted of 2 sessions in total, was moderated by journalist Marta Sömek. SUDEF President Evgil Türker, Teodora Hobil from the Assyrian Women's Association (SURKADİM), Gülistan Yarkın on behalf of the IHD Commission Against Racism and Discrimination, activist Altan Açıkdilli, Yaşar Güven from Jineps and Bülent Bilmez from Istanbul Bilgi University were speakers at the panel.
Evgil Türker, who made the opening speech of the panel, first touched upon the problems faced by Assyrians in the geography they live in. Emphasizing that Syriac is in danger of extinction in Turkey today, Türker said: "Syriac, which was the most powerful language of education, science, literature, commerce and communication in Mesopotamia and the Middle East centuries ago, is in danger of extinction in Turkey today." 
After the speech, the message sent to the panel by Bethnahrin Women's Union (HNB) was read. In the message where the importance of the mother tongue is stated: “Although the differences in color, character, culture, language and religion caused by the historical and political effects of different geographies in the world are often seen as an organism fault or a weakness by sectarian views; In fact, the diversity and multiplicity of languages, cultures and religions depict a great richness. Although a garden consisting of a single flower is beautiful, a garden consisting of flowers of different colors and sizes is richer, healthier and more eye-catching."
After the message was read, Bülent Bilmez spoke. Bilmez said: "February 21, like all commemoration days, is an opportunity to raise awareness and sensitivity, and to stand in solidarity with rights defenders who always struggle, not waiting for that day.” Bilmez emphasized the importance of multilingualism in the academy. Stating that they are working on cultural plurality and linguistic plurality as the Turkish Cultures Research Unit at Istanbul Bilgi University, Bilmez pointed out that the academy is far from scientific at this stage. Bilmez said: “It means a lot that there is no work in the field of both linguistics and language policies. Our aim was to change this situation and add these subjects to the Academy.”
Then activist Altan Açıkdilli spoke; He started by saying hello in Circassian, Kurdish, Laz language, Armenian, Hemshin, Zazaki, Greek, Chechen, Hebrew, Bosnian, Pomak language and Syriac. Stating that in 2012, together with many institutions, they came out to celebrate World Mother Language Day in Taksim Square for the first time in Turkey, Altan said: "This has been going on since 2007; "It was the result of people, their institutions, their representatives coming together and asking 'can we do something to prevent assimilation?'"
The second session of the panel started with Teodora Hobil's speech in Syriac. Hobil started her speech by thanking the organizers of the event on behalf of her association and said: “We, as a people, must not lose our mother tongue. Because when we lose it, we will lose our identity, our homeland, our family, our mother. Syriac is an ancient language that is known and has a heritage in the Middle East, Bethnahrin, that is, Mesopotamia, and even all over the world. But today, unfortunately, it is a language that is about to be forgotten and lost. We are also aware that our language is getting weaker. For this reason, as Assyrian women, we strive to ensure that mothers, whose primary education is their primary education, understand the importance of keeping our language alive."
The panel continued with the speech of Yaşar Güven from Jineps Newspaper. Emphasizing that many native languages have disappeared in Turkey, Güven said: "A responsibility awaits us that this geography will not become a grave for new native languages." Emphasizing the need to fight with common solidarity against the "monist structure" in the country, Güven said: “We have to continue the struggle with our shoulder to shoulder."
Lastly, educator and writer Muzaffer İris spoke at the panel. Stating that mother tongues are on the verge of being forgotten in Turkey and that many people today do not know their mother tongue, Iris said: “We always talk about Seyfo and the genocide. I am a person who believes that linguistic genocide should also be known. When I was subjected to genocide, my language was also subjected to genocide.”
After the speeches, the question and answer session began. Later, SUDEF and Gazete Sabro's demands for Mother Language Day were read. The demands were listed as follows:
“*Legal rights must be provided and concrete steps must be taken to learn, use and protect Syriac, which is among the endangered languages.
*The right to education in Syriac native language must be recognized, schools must be opened by the state, teachers must be employed and materials must be provided.
*Syriac theological and other education rights enjoyed in many countries must be accepted academically in Turkey and official and administrative powers must be provided. In this context, Syriac resources and capacity must be provided in schools and institutes.
*Media organs and institutions that carry out studies on the Syriac mother tongue must be supported.
*The reservations placed by Turkey on the three articles covering the mother tongue of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force by the United Nations General Assembly on September 2, 1990 and was approved by Turkey on October 2, 1995, should be abolished.
*Keeping the mother tongue alive is keeping a people alive. Happy Mother Language Day to all languages.”