Years ago, I was impressed by a news article written by Kejê Bêmal for the Evrensel newspaper. The news was about the children whose mother tongue was Kurdish and who, for that reason, were sent to rehabilitation centres as “mentally handicapped”.
Kejê Bêmal went to these rehabilitation centres to meet both the centre staff and the Kurdish children in the centre. In his article, Kejê Bêmal also wrote about the trauma her cousin Rûken experienced when she started primary school and explained how Rûken, who could not speak any Turkish, withdrew into herself and did not speak a single word. Rûken was just one of millions of Kurdish children who started primary school in this country.
It’s hard to take an oath every day on something you know is not true, especially if it is about who you are. It is even harder to say, “how happy is the one who says I’m a Turk” and to dedicate your identity to the identity of another nation “as a gift,” even if you know that you are a Kurd. Even if you are 7 years old, you may be disturbed by this, and try not to come into contact with anyone while reciting the Student Oath aloud.
When the teacher gets angry and asks you to recite it louder, you look up at the sky and recite it. Sometimes you make excuses saying, “Sir, I am sick, I got hoarse”, and sometimes you try to suppress your embarrassment by laughing.
The Student Oath or Student Pledge (Turkish: Öğrenci Andı) is the oath that was recited until 2013 in Turkish schools at the start of every school day. The Ministry of National Education introduced the “Student Oath” in 1933. The Student Oath was abolished in 2013 as part of a “democratisation package” introduced by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Some considered the oath as discriminatory to Turkey’s minorities.
Whatever you do, your heart is deeply wounded, you think: “If you are not Turkish, then you cannot be correct and hardworking; if your identity is a gift to the Turkish identity, you are below them, you are not equal.”
Over time, you learn how to distance yourself from that oath, and now your heart is full of anger. Taking that oath every morning doesn’t make you a Turk, nor will it make you love this country more. Your anger grows against the country in which you are a citizen.
Those who consider it “patriotism” to make Kurdish children say they are Turkish each day…
“Thoughtful” educators who say, “It would be a shame if education were in Kurdish”…
Those who say, “The problem of the east stems from ignorance”…
Those civil society organisations, which blamed cruel Kurdish fathers and introduced the “Dad send me to school” project while making no mention of education in mother tongue…
Old Turkish women who chant “We succeeded in all wars very well in 10 years” loudly with Turkish flags in their hands making me jump out of the sea to see whether we are launching a war in Bodrum every summer.
Those who say, “The homeland is indivisible …”
Those who keep saying, “the cause of everything is those imperialists …”
Those who say “You are different from other Kurds …”
Those people who expect you to say, “the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is a terrorist organisation”.
Secret racists saying, “If you don’t like it, go to Iraq …”
Those who enjoy asking, “your language is poor, you Kurds do not understand each other, right?”
Those who promote Turkish supra-identity saying, “The definition of the Turkish nation is different. The people of Turkey who founded the Republic of Turkey are called the Turkish nation…”
“They could even become the president of the country, what is missing …”
“This state gave you everything you asked for …”
Celebrate Rûken’s identity and your identity instead!