Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mayor May Get Six Months In Jail For Using The Letter "W" On A Greeting Card

The mayor of the largest city in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast risks up to six months in jail for using the letter W in New Year greeting cards, his lawyer Muharrem Erbey said. The lawsuit came after Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir, one of Turkey's leading Kurdish politicians, sent New Year's cards last year to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cabinet ministers and members of parliament, in which he used the Kurdish expression for "Happy New Year." Since the phrase includes the letter W, which exists in the Kurdish alphabet but not the Turkish one, prosecutors accused Baydemir of violating a law that obliges state agencies, civic groups and private institutions to use Turkish letters.The law dates back to 1928 when the Turkish Republic, founded five years earlier on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, adopted a new alphabet based on Latin characters to replace Arabic script. Erbey said Baydemir's trial would start on February 6, 2007. He is also charged in two separate lawsuits of supporting separatist Kurdish rebels. Turkish courts have in the past rejected applications by Kurds to have their names officially registered with Kurdish spellings, including with the letters W, X and Q, which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet. Activists protest that many private institutions in Turkey freely use in their names words in other foreign languages that include those letters. Under European Union pressure to respect human rights, Ankara has in recent years legalized Kurdish-language broadcasts and allowed private courses teaching the Kurdish language.