Cultural and Linguistic Right

The granting of cultural and linguistic rights in Turkey is a highly
sensitive issue, and constitutes a key benchmark in assessing Turkey’s
progress towards democratization. Broadly, the importance of cultural
and linguistic rights stems from the very painful consequences for
individuals belonging to a minority. Such individuals are frequently
compelled to live a diminished existence, robbed of the life chances
enjoyed by the majority through exclusion from public services
and educational and employment opportunities which frequently
accompany the denial of cultural and linguistic rights.4 States which
do not confer cultural and linguistic rights tend to also deny civil and
political rights, since they are hostile to ideas and opinions which
diverge from the official state line. Further, restrictions on linguistic
rights can, for those who do not speak the majority language, lead
to problems accessing medical services, participating in political
processes and fulfilling their potential in the education system.
Cultural and linguistic rights are also crucial to the capacity of the
individual to fully and effectively fulfil their identity, since restrictions
on linguistic and cultural expression prevent access to many of the
most important institutions in fostering identity such as schools and
the media.5 Minorities denied cultural and linguistic rights are also
prevented from accessing their own literatures and histories, and thus
the ability to interpret the world through their own eyes.6 Cultural
background is one of the primary sources of identity, and the basis
for key elements of self-definition, expression, and a sense of group
belonging. Thus cultural rights are not a ‘luxury’ to be realized at a
later stage of development. Culture is inseparable from the quality
of being human, and from the human sense of self-respect; its denial
is the inverse, it diminishes the group or individual and undermines
their sense of worth. Life without culture starts to lose its meaning
and its context. Furthermore, where minorities are not granted
cultural and linguistic rights, the state makes a clear statement that
such minorities are not valued or accepted; instead they are treated
as outsiders, demeaned and alienated from mainstream conceptions
of the state.
On the other side, states denying cultural and linguistic rights
are impoverishing their own societies; refusing large sections of a
population the ability to fulfil their potential reduces standards of
living and creates less productive societies.7 The denial of linguistic
and cultural rights also has a further, holistic effect on the state. Where
a state allows or facilitates the flowering of alternative identities and
cultures within its borders, this is seen now to cultivate something
of value in itself, namely a richer, more open and vibrant society.
In an increasingly interconnected world, where minority groups
frequently retain cross-border relationships, the protection of cultural
and linguistic rights within a state’s borders is also an important
factor in promoting international peace and security.

Cultural and Linguistic Right

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