Illegal letters in Turkey, what would you think I’m talking about? Correspondence between two ot more people? It certainly sounds like some from of censorship in the country regarding letters of communication, but the illegal letters in Turkey were actually letters of the alphabet, believe it or not. Could you imagine a situation in which certain letters were deemed illegal to use? It seems far fetched, but this was the situation faced by the residents of Turkey. Between 1928 and 2013 it was illegal to use Q, W and X in Turkey. As we have seen already, there are some pretty odd laws in this world, and thankfully this law is no longer one of them.
Way back on November 1, 1928, Turkey introduced a law on Adoption and Application of Turkish Letters. The aim of the law was to turn the writing system from that of the Arabic system used during the Ottomans, to the Roman based system. This was part of post World War 1 leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s secular modernization regime for the country. The fct that the letters were used in Kurdish and not Turkish meant that they had to go. But secular reasons may not have been the true motive.
I suppose you are wondering if Turkey ever enforced the law banning Q, W and X? We can confirm that they did, but not always. In 2005, 20 Kurds were fined 100 Lira (US$74) for holding up placards that contained the offending letters Q and W during New Year’s celebrations. But on the other hand, international companies got away with it, such as Xerox Turkey who used the dreaded X in both promotional campaigns and in advertising. The Turkish law forbidding the use of Q, W and X also had other offenders to turn a blind eye to, such as the medical profession who routinely abused the use of X in X-Rays. It was the Kurds that the laws may have been aimed at.
The introduction of the law also had ulterior motives. It has been suggested that the law to ban Q, W and X in Turkey was an attempt to oppress the minority Kurdish population. This has been suggested because the letters were not used in Turkish, but were used in Kurdish, who represent about 10 to 25 percent of the Turkish population. Banning the use of letters is one way to oppress a minority.
Finally on September 30, 2013, under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Democratization Package, after nearly 85 full years, Q, W and X were finally legalized. The other letters of the alphabet are yet to make a statement on their freedom.