Constitutional Court upholds mother tongue ban

The Constitutional Court justified a disciplinary punishment given to teachers who supported the call of the Education and Science Workers' Union (Eğitim Sen) for one-hour mother tongue education at public schools.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) found no violation in the disciplinary punishment given to 22 unionized teachers who participated in a workshop over one-hour mother tongue education at schools carried out on February 21, 2016 by the Education and Science Workers' Union (Eğitim Sen) as part of UNESCO’s 21 February World Mother Language Day.

Disciplinary investigations were launched against teachers working in primary, secondary and high schools in Lice, Sur and Yenişehir districts of Amed (Diyarbakır) province after they "taught lessons in mother tongue" on February 22, 2016, recommended by the Eğitim Sen. Teachers received reprimands for their lectures on mother tongue held at Eğitim Sen’s suggestion.

When the teachers objected to the reprimands, the Diyarbakır Administrative Courts decided to cancel the disciplinary punishments on the grounds that "their actions remained within the scope of union activities". While the case was taken to the Regional Administrative Court in Antep province, the court ruled that "the action is not within the scope of union activity, therefore, the act of teaching extracurricular courses violated legislation, procedures and principles determined by the institution and resulted in blocking the right to education, which is a democratic and constitutional right."

The teachers in question and the Eğitim-Sen appealed to the Constitutional Court, defending that “the right to union, freedom of expression and organizing meetings and demonstrations were violated.”


The Constitutional Court, however, rejected the appeal of the union, ruling that, “When we look at the overall policy of the Republic of Turkey, it is stipulated in Article 42 of the Constitution that education in the mother tongue will be in Turkish. Therefore, no language other than Turkish can be used by Turkey’s citizens as their mother tongue in education and training institutions.”

Although the Constitutional Court emphasized that “freedom of thought and expression is of vital importance for a functioning democracy”, it ruled that public officials have a “fidelity obligation” to the state.

The Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that there was no violation in salary cuts and reprimands given to the teachers.