Dr. Abdull Rahman Haji Maref (Kurdish: Ew-Rehman Hají Marif, ئهوڕهحمانی حاجیمارف) was without a doubt one of the best Kurdish contemporary linguists. His academic and scholarly works form the bases for many modern Kurdish linguistic standards. As such, his loss will be greatly felt in all aspects of research on the Kurdish language and culture.
Dr Haji Ma’rif was born in 11th Sep 1940 in the City of Silémaní in Baban Province in Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan). He finished his primary school at Giwéjhe primary school for boys. In his writings as a young student, he showed his interest and dedication to Kurdish and non-Kurdish literature.
The young Adul Ma’rif known to his friends as “Sikalla” managed to publish couple of articles in the Journal “Híwa” between 1959 and 1960. He finished his high school in Silémaní before starting his higher education at the University of Baghdad in 1960. He studied for a year at the college of Literature before his ambition lead him for getting higher education in Soviet Union in 1961. He gained admission to what was known then as the University of Leningrad (St. Petersburg). He finished his B.Sc. and M.Sc. studies in Russian Literature with Honour degree.
The following years he put his academic achievements into the context of his personal background–which was quite dear to his hear–by working on his doctoral studies on Kurdish Language and Literature at the Academy of Middle Eastern Studies in Leningrad in 1969. He was supervised by the renown Kurdish scholar, Professor Qenat Kurdo. He obtained his PhD in Kurdish Language with an honour degree in 1972.
In 1973, the young and ambitious Dr Ma’rif returned to his native town after 11 years of absence. Soon he was given a position at the Iraqi Academy in Bagdad. He became an active member of the Kurdish Study Group at the Iraqi Academy “Korrí Zanyarí Bexda – beshí Kurdí”. With his academic skills and scholarly work he managed to become one of the active contributors to the Study Group and published many articles in the Academy’s Journal “Govarí Korrí Zanyarí Kurd le Bexda”.
While still a professor in Kurdish language and Literature at the University of Baghdad, in 1986 he published his well-known controversial book “Writing Kurdish with Arabic alphabet”1, where he gives a well-argued account on historical perspective of Kurdish writing system and the critical analysis of many bottlenecks in using Arabic alphabet for Kurdish. He emphasised in an interview with Kirkuk based “Newshefeq” Journal in 2004 that:
“Even though the Iraqi authority hardly accepts us to speak about the Kurdish identity of Kirkuk, they will much less listen to the discussion of writing Kurdish with Latin alphabet. Now, this bickering between Arab chauvinism and our (Kurds) simple ideas for unchaining the Kurdish language of all its obstacles have made both sides sound immature.
In 1986, I managed to publish a book “Writing Kurdish with Arabic Alphabet”. 1 Besides giving an academic account to all aspects of this issue, I also direct the readers that writing Kurdish with Latin alphabets will solve many problems related to Kurdish writing practices. For example, regarding the shape of the Kurdish vowels I wrote: “We know that the Arabic alphabet have been modified so it can be used for writing Kurdish. The shapes of some vowel letters cause problems in writing them and there are many obstacles related to them that need to be solved. But if we look at this issue in the Latin based writing system, we do not find the same problem. Base on this argument I believe that the Latin based alphabet is more suitable for writing in Kurdish.” 2
Dr. Abdull Rahman Haji Maref died in an unfortunate car accident on Monday the 8th of July 2007 in front of his house in Silémaní. He was buried in that city’s Girdi Seywan cemetery. He was without a doubt one of the leading linguists in all of Kurdistan. His death is a great loss for the Kurdish linguists and the Kurdish Nation at large.
Prepared by Dr Dilan Rostam Roshani
1. Abdull Rahman Haji Maref, “Writing Kurdistan with Arabic alphabets”, Baghdad, 1986
2. Kurdish Journal Newshefeq, issue 15, Kirkuk, 2004, pp 82-96