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Cecil John Edmonds (1889-1979)

Cecil John Edmonds (Kurdish: Sisíl Jan Idmonds,  سسیل جان ئێدمۆنز) a Royal British diplomat was born 26 October 1889, youngest son of Revd. Walter and Laura Edmonds. He was Educated at Bedford School; Christ’s Hospital and Pembroke College, Cambridge. Edmonds Joined Levant Consular Service as student interpreter. In 1910 he was acting Vice-Consul, Bushire. In 1913 he became Assistant Political Officer in Mesopotamia, and 1915 (Temp. Captain), South West Persia. Edmonds served as Political Officer, British Forces North West Persia in 1917. 

He became an important factor in Kurdistan modern history when in 1919 was pointed as Special Duty in S. Kurdistan. Edmonds became the Divisional Adviser and Administrative Inspector in the Kirkuk and Suleimani provinces under Iraq Govt. in 1922. These are the year after match of World War I when the Ottoman empire (1299–1923) dissolved and new nations were born in Middle East.

Edmonds was given the position of Political Officer with military columns in Kurdistan in 1924. He was an skilled linguist with good knowledge in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Kurdish which gave him the opportunity to become Liaison Officer with League of Nations Commission of Inquiry into frontier between Iraq and Turkey in 1925. This is the time when he became a close friend of Colonel Tofiq Wahby (1891-1984) a native Kurdish officer from Ottoman army in Suleimani. Their relation had a great impact in Wahby's work for codifying the Kurdish written language. The Kurdish aspiration for nation building did miss one crucial factor namely an official administration language.

Edmonds’ emphasis on the need to unify the Kurdish language by turning Middle Kurdish (Soraní) into the official dialect in southern Kurdistan was meant to establish Kurdish on the same footing as Arabic and to dismiss the governments attempt to undermine its political importance. Edmonds was also the first scholar to transcribe Kurdish into Latin characters, as no offcial Kurdish alphabet existed. He believed it was important to use the Latin alphabet in order to distinguish Kurdish from the area's two dominant vernaculars, Arabic and Persian. 

Edmindes influence led to introducing of first ever Kurdish alphabet which was dominated by English Latin based alphabet. The strongest and most effective opponent to the proposed Alphabet for Kurdish was the Iraqi government, which rejected alphabet reform or change as an expression of Kurdish particularism or "separatism." Among the Kurds themselves, opposition came from two sources. A conservative group opposed Romanization because of either religious considerations or their links with the central government (Jemal Nebez 1957). The religious opponents chanted En ' Latíní ye, Ladíní ye ' This Latinization is irreligiosity' (Jemal Nebez 1976). Edmonds wrote several articles on Kurdish language codification with Latin alphabet. The most influential on was "Suggestions for the Use of Latin Character in the Writing of Kurdish" published in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, January 1931.

Edmonds became the Assistance Adviser of the Ministry of Interior in Iraq in 1926. His influential position made him a Consular in 1928. His expertise was needed in every frontier of new born nations in Middle East under British mandate. He then became the British Assessor at the League of Nations Commission of Inquiry into the frontier between Iraq and Syria in 1932. Member Of Demarcation Commission of Iraqi-Syrian Frontier in 1933. Later same year he was appointed to Advisory of the Ministry For Foreign Affairs in Iraq in 1933. Member of Iraqi Delegation to the League of Nations in 1932-38. Right before and during World War II he held the position of Adviser to the Ministry of the Interior Iraq 1935-45.

Edmonds served the United Kingdom in years to come as Consul-General in 1937, CMG 1941, UK Permanent Delegate to International Refugee Organisation in 1947, and Minister in HM Foreign Service in 1948 till he was retired in 1950.

Edmondes used his expertise from Kurdistan when he became a Lecturer in Kurdish at SOAS between 1951-57.  He managed to publish a Kurdish English dictionary with Wahby in 1966. Edmondes died in 11 June 1979.

Publication

  1. "Suggestions for the Use of Latin Character in the Writing of Kurdish" published in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, January 1931
  2. "Some Developments in the use of Latin Character For the Writing of Kurdish", The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, January 1933, pp.
  3. "A Kurdish-English dictionary", T. Wahby and Cecil John Edmonds, 1966, Oxford Press

Sources: 

  1. Political thought and political history: studies in memory of Elie Kedourie "Dating the past: C. J. Edmonds and the Invention of Modern Iraq", 2003

This biography was prepared by Dilan Roshani

 

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