Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 12:23 UK

Turkey approves Kurdish studies

Launch of Kurdish TV channel in Turkey, 1 Jan 09
Kurdish-language TV began broadcasting in Turkey in January

A Turkish university will for the first time teach the Kurdish language, which was banned throughout the country until 1991, Turkish officials say.

Postgraduate studies in Kurdish will begin at Artuklu University, in the southeastern province of Mardin.

The language will be offered alongside Farsi, Arabic and Syriac, at a new "Living Languages in Turkey" institute.

Expanding Kurdish language rights is part of a government drive to end years of conflict with armed Kurdish rebels.

In January, Turkey's public broadcaster launched a 24-hour Kurdish-language television channel.

As many as one in five people in Turkey are ethnically Kurdish, most of them living in the country's south-east.

The head of Turkey's higher education board, Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, announced the new language course on Thursday, saying the goal would be to train academics to teach the minority languages.

The EU has urged Turkey to do more to improve Kurdish cultural rights, among a package of reforms demanded by the EU as conditions for joining the 27-nation bloc.

Turkey's EU accession talks opened in October 2005, but progress has been slow.

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