Revival of the Kur­dish Lan­guage in Syria

ARA News

AMS­TER­DAM, Nether­lands – Under the rule of the pan-​Arab Baath party, Syria’s Kurds were for­bid­den to learn their lan­guage over decades and con­stantly deprived of their national and cul­tural identity.

How­ever, the ongo­ing Syr­ian upris­ing has opened unprece­dented oppor­tu­ni­ties for the Kur­dish peo­ple, in north and north-​east Syria, to hold cul­tural forums and estab­lish lan­guage cen­tres to teach and learn their mother tongue. The Kur­dish pop­u­lar out­rage against all kinds of sup­pres­sion and per­se­cu­tion prac­ticed by the author­i­ties seems to have bro­ken all the chau­vin­is­tic con­straints imposed on Kurds.


 After Assad’s forces with­drew from a num­ber of Kur­dish areas end of 2012, and as some Kur­dish forces began to claim con­trol over towns such as Derik, Efrin, Kobane and Amude, Syria’s Kur­manji Kur­dish dialect is being pub­li­cally taught. 

Under the ban­ner of “Our Lan­guage is Our Exis­tence”, the recently founded Kur­dish Lan­guage Insti­tute in Efrin announced the grad­u­a­tion of 300 par­tic­i­pants from the ini­tial course of Teach Kur­dish in the city.

Grad­u­ates received cer­tifi­cates from the insti­tute, and were con­sid­ered by the direc­tor of the Kur­dish Lan­guage Insti­tute (KLI), Farid Shih, to be respon­si­ble for spread­ing the Kur­dish lan­guage across the area.

“A seri­ous respon­si­bil­ity is expected from those newly grad­u­ated teach­ers to teach the Aca­d­e­mic Kur­dish to their peers, and to pre­serve our mother tongue against all the con­demned attempts of pre­vent­ing our chil­dren from prop­erly learn­ing it,” Shih said dur­ing the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony held in the build­ing of the KLI.

Accord­ing to Shih, the Baathi régime has con­tin­u­ously tried to wipe out the Kur­dish lan­guage in Syria.

“Through the Ara­biza­tion poli­cies and the anti-​Kurdayeti cam­paigns prac­ticed and launched by the total­i­tar­ian régime of Assad, the Kur­dish peo­ple were forced to learn and speak Ara­bic, while their mother tongue was for­bid­den,” he revealed.

Shih also empha­sized on the cru­cial role the new Kur­dish teach­ers can play to revive the Kur­dish lan­guage, “which is our iden­tity that can never be obscured or elim­i­nated by any force,” he said.

Fer­had Derki, mem­ber of the West­ern Kur­dis­tan Demo­c­ra­tic Soci­ety Move­ment (TEVDEM), con­sid­ered the KLI to be per­form­ing a sig­nif­i­cant func­tion in rais­ing aware­ness among the Kur­dish peo­ple about the impor­tance of main­tain­ing their cul­tural identity.

“The Kur­dish Lan­guage Insti­tute in Efrin will also play a role in intro­duc­ing our lan­guage and cul­ture to the other com­po­nents of the Syr­ian com­mu­nity; those who didn’t have the oppor­tu­nity yet to get famil­iar with our gen­uine iden­tity due to the decades of per­se­cu­tion,” Derki argued.

He added that an orga­ni­za­tional activ­ity is the way that should be fol­lowed by the Kurds in Syria, “oth­er­wise, we will stay behind, because soci­eties can only improve through orga­niz­ing the efforts and work­ing for the ulti­mate goal which can ben­e­fit the entire nation,” Derki report­edly said. 

Derki empha­sized the impor­tance of tak­ing the advan­tage of the unprece­dented space of free­dom wit­nessed in a num­ber of Kur­dish areas in Syria today. “Our new gen­er­a­tions must have access to an aca­d­e­mic Kur­dish edu­ca­tion; they should learn about the Kur­dish his­tory and cul­ture in their mother lan­guage, and they shouldn’t suf­fer what we suffered”.

In Derik, Bedirkhan Insti­tute for Kur­dish Lan­guage was founded in June 2012, and the open­ing of two pri­mary schools for Kur­dish lan­guage has fol­lowed in Sep­tem­ber in two vil­lages in the sub­urb of Derik, Sherek and Gir-​Palat. 

Muham­mad Sadun, the head of the Bedirkhan Insti­tute for Kur­dish Lan­guage in Derik, stated that the time has come for the Kur­dish peo­ple in Syria to prac­tice their legit­i­mate cul­tural rights.

“In spite of all the chau­vin­is­tic plans to oblit­er­ate it, the Kur­dish lan­guage remained alive because it was always the lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion among the Kurds, and the vari­ety in the Kur­dish dialects indi­cates to the deep roots of this great lan­guage,” Sadun said.

Accord­ing to Sadun, the Ara­biza­tion poli­cies towards the Kur­dish areas in Syria left remark­able impacts on the Kur­dish peo­ple regard­ing their eth­nic identity.

“The Bedirkhan Insti­tute is tak­ing charge of rais­ing the level of the Kur­dish cul­tural edu­ca­tion, espe­cially in this cru­cial phase,” he added. “Our lan­guage is our cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal iden­tity, and since we could pre­serve it despite all the dif­fi­cul­ties we expe­ri­enced in Syria, we will be able to revive it academically.”

In coop­er­a­tion with a num­ber of promi­nent Kur­dish intel­lec­tu­als and aca­d­e­mics, the admin­is­tra­tion of Bedirkhan Insti­tute of Kur­dish Lan­guage in Derik aims to increase the num­ber of Kur­dish lan­guage cen­tres and schools in the sub­urb of Derik to edu­cate as large num­ber of res­i­dents as possible.

Palashin Omar, one of the res­i­dents of Derik who is fol­low­ing a Kur­dish lan­guage course in Bedirkhan Insti­tute, told Reuters that the Kurds in Syria have never been respected as an eth­nic group and as a nation liv­ing on its own his­tor­i­cal land.

“We could never say we are Kurds before,” she said. “We were never respected before now.”

Amude is another Syr­ian Kur­dish city that saw a remark­able Kur­dish cul­tural activ­ity over the last few months.

Ismail Omar Kur­dish Cul­tural Cen­trewas founded recently in Amude, and inten­sive aca­d­e­mic courses of Kur­dish lan­guage were fol­lowed by many res­i­dents of the city in this centre.

The cen­tre aims to con­tribute to spread the stan­dard Kur­dish lan­guage among the Kurds in the area, and tries to play a role in stim­u­lat­ing the non-​Kurd Syr­i­ans to get famil­iar with the Kur­dish lan­guage and culture. 

Ser­dar Resho, a Kur­dish lan­guage teacher, revealed that the cur­rent activ­i­ties of the emerg­ing cul­tural cen­tres across the Kur­dish region in Syria per­form an essen­tial role in estab­lish­ing a solid foun­da­tion for the com­ing gen­er­a­tions to obtain a proper Kur­dish education.

“The cur­rent phase can be con­sid­ered a gen­uine oppor­tu­nity for the Syr­ian Kurds to regain their right of learn­ing their own cul­ture aca­d­e­m­i­cally in their own lan­guage,” Resho said. “By edu­cat­ing our new gen­er­a­tions about the his­tory of their ances­tors and their great cul­ture, we are putting an end to the dark era of chau­vin­is­tic poli­cies imple­mented in the Kur­dish areas in Syria.” 

By: Adib Abdul­ma­jid — ARA News

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