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 (TEV–DEM), 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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