A lawmaker from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Green Left Party (YSP) has filed a criminal complaint against the health minister for excluding the Kurdish language from a list of five language options recently added to the country’s electronic prescription system, the Artı Gerçek news website reported.
Although Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey, making up around 18 percent of its population, the absence of Kurdish on the ministry’s e-prescription system has brought much criticism to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca from healthcare workers, human rights defenders and politicians.
Koca defended the move, saying that the newly added languages — English, German, Arabic, French and Russian — were intended to assist tourists and foreigners in Turkey, not Turkish citizens.
YSP lawmaker Serhat Eren, who represents the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır in the Turkish Parliament, filed a criminal complaint against Koca and other health ministry officials at the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on allegations of engaging in hate and discrimination against Kurds, under Article 122 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), and abuse of office under Article 257 of the TCK.
Eren said in his petition that the addition of other languages in the ministry’s e-prescription system for tourists and foreigners is an explicit act of discrimination against Kurds who he said have been unable to access healthcare services in their mother tongue for years.
The lawmaker said, based on a statement from the Diyarbakır Medical Association, that one out of every four persons in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast does not know any language other than Kurdish. He said the lack of healthcare services in Kurdish prevents efficient communication between patients and doctors in the region.
Throughout most of the 20th century, successive governments have imposed outright bans on or suppression of the Kurdish language in Turkey, where Kurds have been demanding for years to have education and other public services in their mother tongue.
Since an attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in July 2016, the government has shut down a number of Kurdish language institutes, dailies, websites and TV channels as part of a crackdown targeting the Kurdish political movement.