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The Kurdish Scientific Academy

The first and only Kurdish academy was founded in 1972 after nine years of intermittent war between the Kurds and the central government. In the absence of freedom of association, the formation of the academy had to be sanctioned by the bureaucracy of Ba'th Party. Thus, the constituting law of the Kurdish Academy, based on the provisions of article 42 (a) of Iraq's Interim Constitution, was promulgated in August 1970 by the Revolutionary Command Council, and signed by the President of the Republic.

The Kurdish Scientific Academy (henceforth the Academy), Korrí Zaniyarí Kurd, began as the Kurdish branch of the Iraqi Scientific Academy, although it was considered to be an independent body with separate legal character and having financial and administrative independence. The Academy was administered by a presidential council and represented by the Minister of Education before the responsible authorities (Article 1).

The Academy was composed of five full-fledged, ten part-time, and an unspecified number of honorary and associate members (Article 6). The active members had to be Iraqis well-acquainted with the Kurdish language and having one of the following qualifications: (1) a mastery of one or more branches of knowledge with original research carried out or books published in the field of expertise and (2) being well-read in the Kurdish language and thoroughly versed in and capable of research in its idioms [dialects?] (Article 7). The president was "a president of an independent office" having the right to appoint officials and employees according to the ranks determined by the Academy (Article 14a). The budget came from an annual government grant, its revenues, savings, and donations (Article 21) ("Law of the Kurdish Academy," GKZK, Vol. 1, Part 1, 1973, 793-785).

The Law of the Kurdish Academy (Ibid., pp. 790-91, text in English, slight changes in spelling and translation provided) defined the goals and aims of the institution as follows

Article 3. The Academy aims at:
  1. Raising the studies and the scientific researches in Iraq to keep in line with scientific progress.
  2. The safeguarding of the Kurdish language and developing it to the fulfillment of the requirements of sciences, literatures, and arts.
  3. Reviving the Kurdish and Islamic heritage in the sciences, literature, and the arts.
  4. Giving due attention to the study of the history of Iraq, her civilization in general and that of the Kurdish area in particular.
  5. Publishing original research and encouraging the translation and compilation in the fields of the sciences, literature, and the arts.
Article 4. The Academy endeavors to achieve its aims by the following means:
  1. Compiling scientific and linguistic dictionaries.
  2. Issuing magazines and bulletins.
  3. Publishing books, documents, and old texts.
  4. Consolidating its relations with the Iraqi Scientific Academy and with academies and cultural and linguistic establishments in the Arab world and other countries.
  5. Awarding prizes to researchers, authors and distinguished men of literature.
  6. Offering financial aid to researchers, authors and translators.
  7. The writing and translating of subjects chosen by the Academy.
  8. Organizing discussions.
  9. Establishing a library for the Academy, developing it, and paying due attention to printing [publishing].

Although the formation of the Academy was welcomed, criticism was not lacking. M. Mala Karim (1971), a member of the Union of Kurdish Writers, complained that the Kurds needed a language academy rather than one dealing with all the sciences. He also stated that the five full members of the Academy were not qualified according to the provisions of Article 7. Jemal Nebez (1978) was critical of the qualifications of active members, the proposed orthographic reform, scientific terminologies and publishing policy.

The Academy's main linguistic work was terminological creation and orthographic reform. Publication of books and one journal, the purchase of a printing press, the founding of a library, and collecting oral literature, documents, manuscripts and rare journals were among the Academy's achievements. According to a report covering the period from March 1974 to 1977, the institution had become less involved in terminological work. This shift of focus was apparently related to the resumption of the armed conflict between the government and the Kurdish autonomists, with Baghdad's subsequent victory in March 1975. During these three years, 27 books (24 titles in 27 volumes), three Arabic books and three issues of the Academy's journal were published. Besides these, nine books were published with the Academy's assistance. The budget increased from 45,500 dinars in 1975 to 79,900 in 1977 (GKZK, Vol. 5, 1977, pp. 422-34). The President of Iraq donated 20,000 dinars in 1974.

The Inactivation of the Academy.

Although the Academy's budget increased to 98,320 dinars in 1978 and publishing reached a peak of 20 volumes in a single year (GKZK, Vol. 6, 1978, pp. 486-92), the institution was dissolved by the end of the year and later integrated into the Iraqi Scientific Academy. It was then renamed the "Iraq Scientific Academy-Kurdish Corporation." The outlawed opposition party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Dengí Yekétí, No. 5, January 1979, pp. 9-10) assessed the "dissolution" of the institution as an escalation of Arabization pointing to the simultaneous Arabization of 60% of instruction in the Kurdish schools and the removal of the Kurdish chancellor of Sulaymaniya University.

Although the publication of the Corporation's journal resumed in 1980 (Vol. 7), the reports published in this journal, and in the Iraqi Scientific Academy's Arabic language magazine, indicate considerable reduction in activity. The Corporation's "authority" (desellat) was limited to annual publication of 12 books in Kurdish or Arabic (related to Kurdish culture) on the condition that the total number of printed "forms" (galleys) of all the books did not exceed 400 pages (i.e., 6,400 pages, each "form" consisting of 16 pages). Subsidies to Kurdish authors for publishing their works (tin to a maximum of 10 hooks annually) was reduced from a maximum of 500 dinars in 1975 (GKZK, 1975, Vol. 3, Part 1, p. 557) to a maximum of 300 dinars. The number of books published by the institution in 1979-80 totaled eight titles only (GKZK-DK, Vol. 7, 1980, pp. 287-301).

According to a report covering the period 1981-82, published in the Arabic journal of the Iraqi Academy (Majallat al-Majma' al- 'Jim! al-'Iraqi, Vol. 33, Part 2-3, 1982, pp. 566-67), the only activities of the Kurdish Corporation were research on the phonology and pronouns of the dialects, research on the dîwan of a Kurdish poet, and the reprint of a rare book by Amin Fayzi, together with the publishing of three books.

The Impact of the Academy

The Academy's main achievement in language codification was the coining of terminology during the first two years of its existence . The institution failed, however, in cooperating with another government organ which was involved in term-coining for school textbooks-the Directorate General of Kurdish Studies. As a result, the Academy's terminological work was out of touch with the only sphere of application, i.e., secondary school textbooks. Another consequence was the independent creation of different terms for the same concept by the two government organizations (Abdulla 1983:19596).

The proposed alphabet and spelling reform was used in the publications of the Academy only. The reform's failure can be partly attributed to the fact that decisions were taken by a committee which had no contact with other language reformers or government organs involved in language reform. The Academy's printing press was the only one with the two proposed new letter types یَ /í and, وَ /ú. Furthermore, the editors of the Kurdish section of the journal of Baghdad University's College of Letters (Govarí Koléjí Edebiyat, No. 22, 1978, p. 86) repudiated the reform.

The Academy's more tangible impact was in the field of publishing. Many important works, edited "díwans" and dictionaries, could not have been published without its financial and editorial contribution or its printing facilities.

The rise and fall of the Academy was determined by political circumstances. Its establishment was due to the pressure of the Kurdish autonomist war on the government. The defeat of the autonomist movement and the subsequent intensification of Arabization reduced it to a name fit for propagating the government's respect for minority rights. The experience of the Academy demonstrated, however, that a modest annual budget of 80,000 dinars (about $240,000) could effectively contribute to the cultivation of the Kurdish language.

Sources: Prof. A. Hassanpour, "Nationalism and Language in Kurdistan 1918 - 1985", UAS 1992