The language debate in Iraqi Kurdistan

Language has been a site of struggle since the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government in 1992. The Kurds have had to engage in struggles over language on two levels.  First, since the formation of the Iraqi state, they demanded the officialization of the Kurdish language and its equality with Arabic. This was a struggle between the Kurds and the state.  Second, they had to deal with the multi-dialectal nature of their language. This was an internal struggle within Kurdish society, although it was closely tied to the conflict with the state.  This paper has a focus on the second issue, i.e. the politics of “unification” or “standardization” of the Kurdish language.

Language has been a site of struggle since the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government in 1992. The Kurds have had to engage in struggles over language on two levels.  First, since the formation of the Iraqi state, they demanded the officialization of the Kurdish language and its equality with Arabic. This was a struggle between the Kurds and the state.  Second, they had to deal with the multi-dialectal nature of their language. This was an internal struggle within Kurdish society, although it was closely tied to the conflict with the state.  This paper has a focus on the second issue, i.e. the politics of “unification” or “standardization” of the Kurdish language.

Language standardisation and the question of the Kurdish varieties:

The language debate in Iraqi Kurdistan

Hassan Ghazi

International  Conference
The Kurds and Kurdistan: Identity, Politics History
2nd and  3rd  April, 2009
University of Exeter

I should emphasize that, after the fall of the Ba’athist regime in 2003, the new Iraqi constitution granted Kurdish the status of one of the two official languages of Iraq, giving it almost equal footing with Arabic.  This is the most elaborate recognition of the language since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the re-division of the Kurdish speech community among Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.  Kurdish can now be used in written and oral communication in official settings.

Another major development since the formation of the KRG is the proliferation of print and broadcast media in Iraqi Kurdistan.  Since the launch of the first Kurdish satellite TV in 1995, there is now about a dozen satellite television channels, including the latest one, TRT6, which was launched by Turkey. These developments have complicated the question of dialects, their unification and standardization.

Although Kurdish has at least four major dialect groups, the conflict has so far been over the two numerically larger dialects, known as Kurmanji and Sorani. The conflict between the two dialects has, in the past, burst into the open a number of times.  The Iraqi government tried, in the early 1930s, to capitalize on the difference between the two dialects in order to deny Kurdish the status of an official local language.

The more recent round of controversy was among the Kurds themselves. On April 20, 2008, the Kurdish weekly Hawlati (issue No. ‘415) published a petition signed by a group of 53 “Kurdish writers, literary men and academics “ addressed to various bodies of KRG, and the leaderships of  the main Kurdish political organisations demanding the Middle Kurdish variety (i.e. Sorani) to be declared as the “Standardised Kurdish language” (see Appendix A). The petition, even in its title, bore a sign of confusion, as it used a variety of concepts in order to characterize what it meant by language and by officialization.  The petitioners used concepts such as “official,” “unified,”  “state,” and “standard” almost synonymously. However, the conceptual confusion could not complicate the simplicity of their claim. They wanted Sorani to be the “official,” “unified,”  “state,” and “standard” language of the Kurdish government.

The petitioners arbitrarily overlooked the multi-standard nature of the Kurdish written form which hardly could be denied. The process of the development of various written standards among Kurdish speech communities is by no means a new phenomenon. Since the introduction of the Kurdish language in print media and even in the absence of official backing or in the context of sheer denial of existence of Kurdish language, the dialects have been going through a continuous process of standardisation. The petitioners claim that Sorani has already achieved the status of a prestigious variety.  However, the same could be said about Northern Kurdish, and to a lesser degrees other varieties.

Faced with opposition, the petitioners claimed that they want  Middle Kurdish (Sorani) to be the official language only in Iraqi Kurdistan.  It is unrealistic, however, to believe that the status gained by Kurdish in the Iraqi Constitution is just confined to Iraq. In fact, it has already left its mark on Kurdish outside Iraq, where the language lacks any recognised status. Here it is proper to mention, that, possibly Kurdish possesses a unique situation: on the one hand it is recognised as a state language in Iraq and on the other hand it adamantly struggles to be recognised as a language at all in neighbouring countries.

The petitioners warned that a bi-standard language leads to the division of the nation.  Thus, they equated political unity with dialectal unity, and confuse linguistic identity with national identity.  However, the concept “unified language,” if such a phenomenon can ever exist, does not mean that every Kurd can use it in reading and writing. In fact, the process of evolution of the written form has been quite complex; it has gone through different stages, and we are now facing a bi-standard situation.  Other varieties of Kurdish family apart from Sorani and Kurmanci are experiencing codification and evolution in written form. Those who are using Dimilki, Hewrami and Keluri varieties stress their Kurdish identity and are considered as such by the other Kurdish speech communities; they are all engaged in cultural revival by using diverse media and develop their varieties in both the written and oral forms.

Contrary to the claims of the petitioners, the lack of a “unified written language” is unlikely to affect the development of Kurdish communities in economic, social, political and cultural spheres and it is not the source of the present division among the Kurds even in Iraq.

Generally speaking the main focus of argumentations in the petition was on the historical role of the Sorani variety in education and publication in Iraq, but the authors  did not pay the slightest attention to the sociolinguistic aspects of language. The petition in its theoretical aspect tries to imitate the archaic role of language in nation buildings in Europe, which if applied to the present situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, will lead to more division.

The petition triggered a heated debate among various quarters in Iraq  Kurdistan but even in diaspora. On April 22, just two days after the publication of the petition in Hawlati, Dr. Hassanpour submitted a critique of the project to a blog in Europe and argued:[1]

“Since …1991, the Kurmanji speaking population, on the streets and alleys, in shops and offices have been using Kurmanji, while Sorani speakers continued to use their dialect as in the past. Sorani still holds more power, and it has to do with the unequal relations between these two dialects in Iraqi Kurdistan. This is not an indication of Sorani being more advanced than Kurmanji, or Sorani being standardised, but not Kurmanji;  whatever could be written in Sorani, could be expressed in Kurmanji as well. But declaring a variety as an official language will confer power on its speakers, while it results in the denial of power to the speakers of other dialects.”

A few days later, the Kurdish Writers Union branch in Dehok published a statement in their website[2] , which, while rejecting the 53’s proposal, invited them for further discussion and dialogue on the issue. They welcomed the evaluation of  Dr. Hassanpour  and asked  the points outlined in his contribution to become a platform as an expert assessment for further discussion on tackling Kurdish language and relations between varieties. They published the full text of “Kurdish as a bi-standard language” as an appendix of their statement. Thanks to the power of Internet an expert’s view from Southern Canada ( Dr. Hassanpour) echoed in Southern Kurdistan in a short span of time and contributed much to the language debate.

In early May, Hassan Silivani, president of  Kurdish Writers Union in Dehok, outlined the views of Writers of Badinan region:

“Contrary to a recent statement by KRGs education minister, nobody wants Sorani to be declared as a standard  (that is to say official) language in Badinan. I  personally don’t want my children put aside Kurmanji and just study in Sorani. Nobody accepts that. We do not accept any one to impose upon us Sorani.”[3]

While the debate was raging in the print media and on the Internet, there was more or less silence among the high ranking officials of the KRG.  The only one who took a position was KRG’s education minister, Mr Dilshad  Abdulrahman who in a lengthy interview with the weekly Rudaw (No. 4, Monday 2008-04-27) (see Appendix B for the full text of the interview). expressed his personal views about the content of the appeal and gave his own blessing. Although the views expressed by him still are unbinding, it is representative of the dominant outlook concerning language issues in Sorani speaking areas in Iraqi Kurdistan.

One should stress that part of the current problems in education system in Iraqi Kurdistan as long as language is concerned is inherited from an administrative system which has been divided between the two major Kurdish parties. After the formation of the KRG, the KDP and PUK, divided the top positions of the government among themselves; this became known popularly as a 50-50 division of power. Later, in the wake of their armed conflict in 1994, they divided the territory in two parts. After 2003, they have started a process of integration of the two governments into one.

We turn to Badinan again to hear the opinion of Dr. Fazil Omar, head of  Dehok governorate’s county council, an official of KRG. In answering a question about why there was a switch back to Sorani in the previous year in Dehok  and what will happen during the new academic year, he said: “Now the  problem has spread to the streets of  Dehok. People are asking for a stop in using children for experiments. One year they are instructed in Badini, another year they get mixed instruction and one year in Sorani. This has made our children into Guinea pigs.[4]

One of the bodies which expected to have an expert view on the issue is the “Kurdistan Academy,” which was reorganised in Hawlér after the reunification of the administration in Iraqi Kurdistan. Dr.Shafiq Qazzaz, president of the academy, in an interview, while emphasizing that his views were strictly personal and did not reflect the opinion of the members of the ‘Kurdistan Academy’ as a whole, indirectly supported the 53 but emphasized that the Academy has not taken a position on the conflict.[5]

Two events strengthened the position taken by adherents of  linguistic diversity and linguistic human rights in Kurdistan on the issue. First, Selah Ahmad, a Kurdish academic in Carleton University, Canada, who was one of the signatories of the appeal publicly withdrew his support and denounced the appeal. He argued that there should be more debate and that the officialization of one dialect violates the rights, equality and freedom of other dialect speakers. 

The second event was the formation of “The committee for defending Kurdish language and culture in Musil and Dehok governorates” in mid- September 2008. Right from the outset of the debate, writers, publishers, academics and city administrators in Dehok had come together in order to find ways for tackling the issue of Kurmanji’s use in Kurmanji speaking areas. The committee has no legal status as yet, but it tries hard to make its views known to various bodies in Hewlér.

Now, In Dehok schools Kurmanji is used in the 6 grades of the elementary school, but in higher education  Sorani is still dominant and the confusion is persisting .In a recent meeting held in Dehok, on 12 March 2009, all circles involved have agreed that “Kurmanji should be the medium of instruction in Dehok region up to grade 9.” The head of Dehok governorate’s county council added we have allocated budget to meeting this end. We are going to start a publishing house to print material for the purpose of education in Kurmanji.

Apart from Kurmanji speaking areas in Iraqi Kurdistan, even speakers of Hawramani and Feyli (Keluri) varieties have raised demands for accommodation of their varieties in the education system in their respective areas. A petition signed by a large number of Hawramani speakers was sent two years ago to the regional Parliament of Kurdistan demanding the recognition of Hawramani.

In recent years, the Hawramani variety has been experiencing quite a remarkable progress; it is more than five years that a weekly programme is broadcast in the variety by a satellite outlet from Europe. Its impact on satellite televisions in Iraqi Kurdistan was remarkable. Now they, too, have begun limited streaming in Hawrami. There are many other Hawramani related cultural activities in Iraq, Iran and the diaspora.

In spite of these positive developments, Hawramani children still have no rights to get instruction in their mother tongue in Iraqi Kurdistan. Even Kaluri (Faili) speakers are pressing for linguistic rights. A petition to this end has been handed to the ‘Kurdistan Academy’. As the president of ‘Kurdistan Academy’ noted in his interview in May 2008, no concrete language policy has come out from their deliberations.

Now the pupils in Dehok governorate, thanks to the decisive resistance of adherents of linguistic diversity, have their instructions in Kurmanji up to grade 6, but that does not cover other Kurmanji speaking areas such as Barzan and Hewlér area. The pupils will not get any course in Sorani, but when they would start grade 7, in intermediary level, the medium of instruction will be Sorani again, and this will certainly entail problems.

Now, the debate around the issue has subsided to some extent, although the conflict continues to remain unresolved. Two clearly conflicting views are behind the debate: one group advocates the traditional equation of nation with language: one nation/one language.  They see national unity as a product of linguistic unity.  Since the Kurdish language is multi-dialectal, they equate linguistic unity with dialectal unity.  The other side of the conflict emphasizes plurality and freedom of choice and sees the imposition of any dialect in a multidialectal society as an undemocratic political project which involves coercion.

Some of the participants of this conference should be praised for their contribution in defending the linguistic rights of various sections of Kurdish population in Iraqi Kurdistan. Their expert views echoed tremendously in Kurdish circles even in Iraqi Kurdistan, and being Sorani speakers themselves contributed to minimizing the tension created as a result of misjudgement and arbitrary views pronounced  by the campaign by the 53-1 petitioners.

Thank you


Appendix A: Text of the Appeal of the 53

(Source April 20, 2008, the Kurdish weekly Hawlati, April 20,2008, issue No. ‘415’ translated from Kurdish)

The message of a group of Kurdish writers, literary men  and academics.

For standardisation of the Kurdish Language

  • To his Excellency the President of Kurdistan Region
  • The Excellencies Speaker and members of Kurdistan Parliament
  • The Excellencies the Head and members of Kurdistan Region’s Council of ministers
  • Excellencies the Minister of Education, Higher Education and Culture
  • Excellencies members of Political Bureaus of PUK, KDP, Islamic Unity and Kurdstani Parties

The message of a group of Kurdish writers, literary men and academics

Subject: to standardise Kurdish language

Now, according to all historical, intellectual and demographical criteria, the Middle – Kurmanji variety, has become a language   and medium for cultural, educational issues in all three large provinces of Kurdistan region ( Erbil, Kerkuk, Silemani), more over it has become the political and social medium speech between the Capital and the whole region, including Badinan district and Dehok  governorate. The Middle-Kurmanji variety is no longer a local and regional dialect, but it is the language of thousands of books and hundreds of  newspapers and it has created a large reading audience in Kurdistan. It is in a stage to become the language of thought and thinking in the fields of philosophy, political and social sciences and it has absorbed thousands of scientific and humanistic terminologies. Further due to historical geographical, political and cultural realities the Middle- Kurdish has become a link between Northern and Southern ( varieties) with all their different variations.

In spite of efforts of previous regime in Baghdad for dividing the Kurds through dividing their language, also in spite of attempts by some Arab and Turkish racist circles in accordance to the same chauvinistic discourse, implying the Kurds are not capable to unify their political will for standardising their language, up till now Kurdish have preserved its loyalty to this variety of its language and has proved the opposite.

Of course we all, intellectuals, politicians and educators bear great responsibility about this issue. But the politicians and high sovereign bodies of the Region (such as the presidency of the region, parliament and the council of ministers  ) bear the historical responsibility and it is imperative that they sense the sensitivity of this period and turn this de-facto verdict  into a political decision. Because history tells us the decisive decisions need politicians with long visions, and with historical and patriotic feelings.

To officially recognise the presently used variety in Kurdistan region does not mean the other varieties, especially Northern Kurmanji, Hewramani, Lori …etc to be neglected , on the contrary it is necessary ,in the meantime to establish special departments in the universities and set up national institutions for an intensive and all sided studies of all varieties of Kurdish language with the aim of strengthening them and fusion of this variety which we hope to be recognised (as official language) at this stage. Because the present used language is not necessarily an ideal and a deficiency free language, it needs to be strengthened and expanded. What we mean is, its grammar, orthography and public usage should be recognised officially otherwise it should be open for adopting morphological and terminological constructs from all varieties. The linguistics science tells us the language is an historical entity; it develops day after day and year after year. If the number of synonyms in a language are more, it means that language is richer, the existence of many synonyms  in a language are not a cause of its division and difference. The Kurdish language also needs all its varieties and none of them are unnecessary.

The language that we want to be recognised officially is the same language which the deceased scholar Tofiq Wahbi Bag has created an orthography for it. It has been the language of the first Kurdish government, the government of Sheikh Mehmoud and Mahabad republic.

Later in 1959 in the general conference of teachers in Shaqlawa it was proposed to be recognised as official language .Yet later the deceased leader Barzani  The First and Kurdistan Democratic Party after the March agreement of 1970, supported this step, especially in the field of education. That is why it is a patriotic step and a decisive issue facing the Kurdish authority to revitalise officially these historical, cultural and political background and take a political decision about it.

No political power, notwithstanding its might and force can forcefully coin a language or destroy it  forcefully, rather it can officially recognise that language which is created by the verdict of reality and develop it. Later the language in itself gets rich naturally by adopting the vocabulary and phrases from its other varieties. To this end sometimes political authority uses the sacred sources and religious books as it was done in the case of  standardising  of both Arabic and Hebrew languages. They relied on the language of Qur’an and the language of Torah. And yet sometimes political authority uses the cultural sources, as it was done in the case of standardising   both Persian and Turkish languages. When it was decided officially   to adopt the common literary language used in big cities such as Shiraz, Tehran and Istanbul. In France the literary language of   Paris , in Italy the cultural language of Florence and in the case of Chinese language the variety of Beijing were made the basis of standard languages and politically were recognised officially.

On the issue of standardising of Kurdish language, we a group of Kurdish writers, literary men, academics and journalists, believe that it is better that political authority in Kurdistan region gets benefit from the second experience, that is to say by considering the cultural source ( heritage) of three large provinces of the region out of four provinces, by taking into consideration the vast library which since the period of Baban  Emarate  flows the literary, cultural, journalistic and diverse translated masterpieces. And even up to this date when Erbil has become a capital, it continues to get richer and larger and  it is in constant progress.

It is obvious that in the case of our national situation, one of the factors of national division, one of the reasons of the weakness of Kurdish nationalism’s discourse and foundation, is the lack of a standard language, which can act as an manifest and symbol of national structure, because the national structure will not be created by just establishing institutions, constructing buildings and setting up armies, and it can not be protected, rather it will be created by  schools, printing houses and common language. The factor which makes an individual from a simple human being into a loyal person to his/her nation is this vision and symbolic adherence which manifests itself in language.

That is why we suggest.

First: By ratifying a law, a decision be taken to recognise officially the Middle-Kurmanji variety as the corner stone of education’s standard language and the medium of communication among governmental bodies, at the same time in accordance to the same decision the pupils and students should be obliged to in the programme of studying Kurdish language get fully acquainted with other varieties of their language, in order to pave the way for different varieties get closer to each other.

Second: By ratifying an attached law a decision be taken for establishing a national institution

or ( Universities and scientific bodies be recommended) for studying, compiling and make archives of all Kurdish varieties of Kurdish language and regularly put forward suggestions for fusing the official language with vocabulary, phrases and  the terminologies of all other varieties.

Finally, we hope you understand our sincerity and take our concern into consideration

  • With due respect
  • 15.04.2008
  • 53 signatories

Appendix B: Interviw with Dilshad Abdulrahman

(source: Rudaw, No. 4, Monday 2008-04-27, translated from Kurdish)

Rúdaw: 53 writers and journalists published a message, asking for the Middle- Kurmanji variety or so called Sorani to be made as standard Kurdish language. The petition even has been addressed to education ministry, and has to do with your ministry. What is your position on that?

Dilshad Abdulrahman: In my own personal view as Dilshad Abdulrahman I support this appeal. I believe also that Middle-Kurmanji variety as a result of a set of  cultural, intellectual and political factors have been an official language of the government of  King Mahmoud , The Mahabad Government, The September Revolution, the more recent movements, The May Movement , and all political parties of Kurdistan with all their diverse views, It was also the official language of Kurdish rule after the March agreement of 1970, and since uprising of 1991 it has been the official language in all regions of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Indeed up to the second half of 1990s it retained its position as an official language and since then some change occurred in its position. I believe this issue needs a decisive decision by the presidential Council of Kurdistan, The Council of Ministers and Kurdistan parliament. There are many examples on  how a variety of a language  have been declared as an official language. Such a decision does not mean erasing other varieties, on the contrary the other varieties can enrich this variety, because this official language will not be any particular variety. I am not in agreement with that suggestion in the petition that asks Middle Kurmanji (Sorani) should be declared as a official language. I disagree only with that point. Because this language which nowadays is in use has been employed for tens of years for publishing books and writings, indeed it has not been a particular variety but, a mixture Hawrami vocabulary and Northern Kurmanji and different dialects of Kurdistan, that is to say the variety which is currently  is used in literature and in written form and for producing  school books by education ministry, They all are printed in a vareity called Middle Kurmanji and sometimes erroneously called Sorani . This language in reality is not the speech form of any one, neither of  Hewlér, Silémani, Kerkuk, nor of  Mahabad or Baneh, any individual from those places when they talk they employ tens of different words which are not used in books. The variety which is proposed to be a standard language in reality does not belong to any city, town or language variety, But it has become an official language thanks to evolving of cultural, economical and political conditions in tens of years. And the erroneous of its presentation  have caused a kind of reaction from the speakers of  some varieties in some areas. I ask the linguists and academics to propose that this official language which exists to be recognized as official, not any particular variety. They should say this existing official language is the product of a mixture of all varieties and of all cities which all of them have produced this present official language, the only remaining point is to declare it official.

Rúdaw! Do you believe that this appeal to be accepted and establish itself ?

Indeed the excellencies the president of the region, the speaker of Parliament and political bureaus of the political parties, and the council of ministers all of them are trying to find a solution to this problem. I think that will have a positive effect on  solving this issue soon.

Rúdaw: Even last year this issue came up to the agenda some how. As a concerned minister have you discussed this issue with the head of government? What is his opinion about this issue?

Dilshad Abdulrahman: All concerned quarters are well aware that Kurdistan needs  a recognised official language, which every one should be in agreement over that and make it recognised, and as I said before they are trying to find a way on  how this decision should be taken. Of course to take a decision in this respect, necessitates some  preparations. As far as I know the ministry of higher education and Kurdistan academy were assigned to investigate this issue scientifically and present their findings to relevant decision making bodies , in order a proper decision could be take on that.

Rúdaw: The majority of those who have signed the petition are known and competent people, but they are not linguists, Do you see it as correct that they raised such an issue?

Dilshad Abdulrahman: Possibly they should answer this question themselves. But today because of dangers threatening  the national sovereignty and the existence of a scared cause many people get involved  in a field which is not their speciality. But the danger of formation of two languages exists and it is cause for concern for every one. If these  two varieties ( to be developed) separately in two different geographical boundaries, then indeed It will be a threat on  national spirit that we need consolidate that today, for the sake of realisation of the dreams of people of Kurdistan.

Rúdaw: You mentioned the national unity, but some people say such a decision results into fragmentation of Kurdish national spirit and composition.

Dilshad Abdulrahman: The issue is approached   from different perspectives. In my opinion as language is one of the fundamental pillars of nation’s existence  , The language has always been very important for the Kurds. It is not necessarily imperative that all nations have gone through the same process in their   nation building drives. The language may not have played the same roll every where, but as I said   it has been very important for the  Kurds. The Kurdish adversaries have shown a high degree of animosity towards it, The antagonism that they have shown towards   Kurdish language have been more than the other aspects of Kurdish entity. One of the demands of the movements of Kurdish people up to the uprising (of 1991) always was to have rights for instruction in Kurdish and official recognition of its usage   in Kurdistan. That is why if this decision is taken it will be an element for revival of Kurdish national awareness.

Rúdaw: Do you think it should become a language for all Kurdish nation?

We have the right to think and to have dreams( to have visions), but in reality the Kurdistan region is part of Iraq and we have no project for secession. Those political parties whom people have voted for, they have no plan for secession of Kurdistan from Iraq. Even if  this wish ( existed), there is no unification plan with the other parts ( of Kurdistan), so recognition of this official language  just for Kurdistan region is a very realistic thing.

Rúdaw: Last year when it was talk of removing Badini  from the curriculum

in Dehok  governorate, The Northern Kurmanji websites attacked you very harshly. Even now you may be the target of criticism. What do you say to them?

Dilshad  Abdulrahman: In fact I believe  deeply in  freedom of thought, and I give the right to the people to express their views freely and if they  criticize me it is very normal . I am not against the wishes of some people who want to have instructions in Northern Kurmanji, This is the desire of a handful of  people. If the Middle- Kurmanji be made official , it does not mean the other varieties are erased. In fact our language needs to get benefit from all varieties. Every day several new words enter our language and we have no vocabularies for them, but we can find words for them in another varieties. According to the decision of Council of ministers up to the grade six the instruction in Dehok is in Northern Kurmanji and there is no decision that it can continue like that, therefore if there will not be any other decision for instruction in higher grades ,no doubt the students in Badinan region will have their instructions in that variety which is employed in Hewlér, Silémani and Kerkuk.

Rúdaw: As Shérzad Hassan ( he is a Sorani novolist – my addition)  is one of the signatories of the petition and he is your adviser, did they consulted you before publishing the appeal?

Dilshad Abdulrahman: in fact, not. but as a person close to intellectual circles , I knew a group of people intend to do such a thing. But honestly they did not need to consult me on that.

Rúdaw: Did you support them?

Dilshad Abdulrahman: I support the petition, but may be I would not agree with the way it is formulated. The current official language which we use now belongs to all varieties and all people of Kurdistan and they share it.

Rúdaw: In Dehok the appeal was rejected by an open statement, they also say that even we have decided to have our instructions in Badini in high school. If there will be such a demand what will be your position?

Dilshad Abdulrahman: We have not received such a demand yet.

Rúdaw: But they say they are going to  present such demand

Dilshad Abdulrahman: Let us not judge before hand.

Rúdaw: Sometimes some Northern Kurmanji speakers say, how it happens that Turkumans get instruction in their own language, but The Kurdistan Regional Government does not allow instruction to be run in Northern Kurmanji. They say if  Northern Kurmanji is curbed we will not retain any relations to the other parts of the region. What do you think about that?

Dilshad Abdulrahman: This is a very weak pretext, it means they consider a speech variety of a section of the  people of Kurdistan as a different language. We have not said that the Northern Kurmanji variety is a distinct language, But Turkumans have their own language and are a different nation. According to constitution all other groups in Kurdistan if they consider themselves as a separate nation, are allowed to have instruction in their own language. but the question is ; is there anyone in Kurdistan to doubt the Kurdishness of  the itself, whether he or she is a speaker of Southern Kurmanji, Middle-Kurmanji or Northern Kurmanji. Have any one of us heard some one to say I am not Kurdish? If somebody say I am not Kurdish and I belong to another nation and demands to have instruction of a (specific) language  then we as education ministry have duty to arrange that they get instruction in their own language. The Kurdish nation is a single nation and has various varieties , and this is something which has precedents all over the world. If it continues like that tomorrow Hawramis say why Hawrami should not be included  in school instructions , Zazas and Xaneqinis may demand likewise. Or Silémanis  and Kewléris demand to get instructions in their varieties. The present official language does not belong to any town or area, It means when all of us speak  , we speak in a variety, but when we write ,we change the way we speak. I say “ enúsim”, but when I write I use “ denúsim”.

Rúdaw: Some people say this demand in present situation is not appropriate. Because it provokes the speakers  of other varieties and deepens the division.

Dilshad Abdulrahman: We can  have dialogue with each other and speak to each other beyond all forms of provocations . This issue could be solved  through the meetings and convincing each other, it can not be solved in isolation and indifference. It is not appropriate I say something here and another gentleman in Dehok says something else and another in Xaneqin utter differently.  I don’t believe that there is any intellectual in Deok who is not prepared to engage in dialogue. I have personally met several gentlemen from Dehok and have spoken with them and we have very positive understanding.

Rúdaw: In Badinan they say we are no longer accepting to make our children as Guinea pigs. They study one year in Badini, one year in Sorani and the third year in a mixture of both .Because it is disadvantageous for the level of their learning. Don’t you think the Badini children are exposed to a big injustice?

Dilshad Abdulrahman: Who exposes them to this cruelty, who has done this injustice to them?

Think a child who is born in Tawélle ( in Hwraman area) and uses the same book  is he also

exposed to cruelty because of that? and the same in the case of a child in Xaniqin. We should decide whether we are Kurds or not, are we or are not we? In reality it is not possible for us to arrange instruction in a tongue spoken in every town, district or quarter.

Rúdaw: People in Badinan are mostly concerned with the variety which is used in instruction!

Dilshad Abdulrahman. I have the same opinion about the language employed in school books, that is why it is time to solve it. I agree with the view that the children from Dehok should be given confidence, now  they are living  in a state of uncertainty . Now in elementary school they have their instruction  in  Northern Kurmanji, when they enter the high school they start Middle- Kurmanji , and now there is a call that even in high school they  should continue with Northern Kurmanji . I think  that will create uncertainty for them. We want the children of Kurdistan at least learn several foreign languages such as  Arabic, English, and if  all of us can  not read  this Kurdish language of ourselves and speak in it, then  how can an approach other nations and learn another languages.”

  • [1] Rojname (No. 206, Thursday 2008-04-24)
  • [2], accessed on
  • [3] For Silivani’s interview see, accessed on 
  • [4] Rúdaw (No 4. Monday  2008-04-28)
  • [5] Midia (No. 237, Thursday 2008.05.26

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