Turkey: A Case of Trial and Error

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Radical academic Noam Chomsky threw the spotlight on Turkey's repressive laws last month when he challenged the Turkish state security court to prosecute him for sedition.

A Turkish publisher had been hauled before the court for printing a translation of Chomsky's writings discussing the repression faced by Kurds in Turkey. In front of the world's press Chomsky argued that if stating this fact was a crime, he and not his publisher should be in the dock.

World media attention ensured that the charges were dropped, but for hundreds of human rights activists and Kurdish campaigners this kind of persecution is part of daily life. For the past four months Kurdish activists in Turkey have been campaigning for the right to receive education in their mother tongue. University students have now been joined by parents and pupils at primary schools across Turkey, and campaigners say they have won support from local trade unions and human rights groups. More than 20,000 people have now signed petitions supporting the campaign.

The response of the Turkish government has been brutal--hundreds have been arrested and charged. Kurdish press reports describe how parents are being dragged from their homes by the police after asking for Kurdish education for their children. The Turkish state news agency reported that 46 primary school pupils and their class teacher from Diyarbakir in southeastern Anatolia were detained by the authorities in January. Even the tabloid press in Turkey has criticised the government clampdown, and Chomsky's case will add further pressure for an end to the repression.