Kurdish translation of Ubuntu stirs controversy in Turkey

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Controversy followed the release of a Kurdish translation of Ubuntu in Turkey last week. The release was originally reported in Millyet, a Turkish national newspaper, on November 21. This first release of a Kurdish language operating system and software has caused a stir in Turkey, where, up until 1991, it was illegal even to speak Kurdish in public.

More recently, laws regarding the public use of Kurdish have been relaxed somewhat. Kurdish language education, although still banned in state schools, is now permitted in private institutions. Music, radio and television broadcasts in Kurdish are also allowed, albeit subject to severe time restrictions. According to the PEN American Center, writers and journalists in Turkey have been charged and tried under "anti-terror" laws for touching on the subject of Turkey's Kurdish minority.

However, many bureaucrats still put up staunch resistance to the limited rights granted the Kurds. Subsequent reports in the Turkish press suggest that Mayor Abdullah Demirbas of Sur, a town in Diyarbakir, Eastern Turkey, is currently under investigation by the Diyarbakir chief public prosecutor's office following the launch. It is not clear what Demirbas is being investigated for, but it is probably related to Turkey's less than tolerant stance on the public use of Kurdish.

The translated version of Ubuntu was presented to the public by Rainer Heider, an American software specialist, at a reception organized by the Sur Municipality.

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