Kurdish literature revives in Turkey, writers say

Sun Oct 19, 2008 6:39am EDT
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By Sarah Marsh

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Turkey's inclusion of the Kurdish literary community in its cultural program at the world's biggest book fair this week was hailed as a "revolution" by Kurdish writers this weekend.

Turkish literature was the central theme of this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, a week-long event which attracts about 300,000 visitors each year.

The rights of Turkey's ethnic Kurdish minority, which makes up a sixth of its total population, is still a sensitive topic in Turkish politics, with Kurdish autonomy seen as a threat to the modern republic.

But Kurdish writers at the fair said there had been a renaissance in Kurdish literature since Turkey had eased some restrictions on their language and culture in recent years, under pressure from the European Union which it hopes to join.

"The fact that we are even here and can hold this forum is a revolution," Kurdish author Muhsin Kizilkaya said at a seminar on the efforts of author Mehmet Uzun to establish Kurdish as a literary language.

Uzun, who lived for several decades in exile in Sweden and died last year, is seen as the father of modern Kurdish fiction and his work has been translated into more than 20 languages.

A ban on the Kurdish language in Turkey was lifted only in 1991, and Kizilkaya and other writers at the seminar said they still faced censorship and restrictions.

Turkish nationalists fear that encouraging the Kurdish language will undermine national unity and security.   Continued...