Students dancing to Kurdish folk songs beaten by far-right group in Turkey’s Karaman province

A group of university students from Karaman province in southern Turkey were attacked by far-right ultranationalist Gray Wolves for dancing to Kurdish music, the Evrensel daily reported.

The students were dancing in the college dormitory when the group of Gray Wolves allegedly forced them into a small room and beat them. They also confiscated the students’ phones and wrote, “We apologize to the Turkish public for our immoral behavior,” on their social media accounts.

Kurds in Turkey are often pressured not to speak their native language. Authorities frequently claim that people speaking Kurdish are actually chanting slogans in support of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an armed insurgency against Turkish security forces since the 1980s in a campaign that claimed the lives of some 40,000 people.

Bans on the use of Kurdish in Turkey date back many years. Kurdish language, clothing, folklore and names had been banned in 1937. The words “Kurds”, “Kurdistan” and “Kurdish” were among those officially banned. After a military coup in 1980, speaking Kurdish was officially banned even in private life.

Traumatized by the attack, one of the students quit university and returned to his hometown of Diyarbakır in southeastern Turkey. The student’s parents filed a complaint against the perpetrators.

The incident took place on April 1 but was made public last Thursday after Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu discussed it in the Turkish Parliament.

Gergerlioğlu said the Kurds face many problems in Turkey and the latest incident clearly shows that these problems are far from over. “A young man had to drop out of school and return to his hometown just because he was dancing to a Kurdish folk song. How is this possible?” He asked.

The Diyarbakır Bar Association issued a statement on its Twitter account saying it condemned the attack on the students. “Authorities must carry out an effective investigation into the incident,” they said. “This was clearly a hate crime that targeted the Kurdish people and their culture. Politicians who use polarizing language are to blame for such incidents.

The statement criticized the justice system, saying it protected perpetrators of hate crimes by granting them impunity.

The Karaman governor’s office released a statement saying no such incident had occurred on the university’s premises. However, they acknowledged that a group of 15 people had gathered outside the dormitory but were dispersed by the police.

In a controversial move, the rector of Karaman University, Namık Ak, visited the Karaman office of the Gray Wolves.

The Gray Wolves are linked to the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Early last year, the European Parliament called on the European Union and its member states to consider adding the Gray Wolves to the EU’s terrorist list.

In its 2019-2020 report prepared by Turkish rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor, the EP expressed concerns about the group, saying it was growing at worrying levels not only in Turkey but also in EU countries.

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