Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bring down the walls! - By Delovan Barwari

Linguistic diversity is closely connected to diverse democracy. A nation proud of its diversity will safeguard and protect its dialects. As each dialect holds important clues, culturally, geographically, and historically in its oral and written forms, it is an obligation to our nation to promote and safeguard all Kurdish dialects, on the basis of unity, academia, heritage, brotherhood, and democracy.

For so many years, Kurds have been subject to cruel denial and suppression. The use of the Kurdish language in education, except in Iraq, has been outlawed for decades. Today, Iraqi Kurdistan is the only part of Kurdistan where students are freely educated in Kurdish, as it is the only region where Kurds are governing themselves.

In numerous democratic countries, more than one official language or dialect is recognized at both the province and the national level. For example, Switzerland, approximately the size of Iraqi Kurdistan, has three official languages: German, French, and Italian. India has 26 national languages and each state can decide their own official language or dialect; neither the constitution, nor any Indian law defines any national language.

In April of 2008, a group of 53 so called intellectuals (writers, poets, and academics) initiated a petition to impose a regional dialect as the standard Kurdish language in Iraqi Kurdistan. Following the petition, the former Minister of Education, Dr. Dilshad Abdulrahman, attempted to impose Sorani as the medium in the education system, while removing Kurmanji. However, the move was harshly criticized and rejected by the intellectuals and academics in the province of Duhok.

The petition by the group of 53, and the attempt by the former Minister of Education to impose a dialect over another is clearly irrational and a step backwards in the plight of the Kurds. The predicament in Kurdistan is unlike any other nation in the world. Kurdistan has been forcefully partitioned and occupied by four oppressive governments, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. These governments have all attempted to assimilate and eradicate the Kurdish culture and language.

Today, Iraqi Kurdistan is the only part where the Kurdish language is completely legal in the education system, media, and government. It is the only region where the Kurdish language and its dialects can be fully protected and flourish.

Kurmanji and Sorani are the two dominate dialects in Kurdistan today. It is worth mentioning that Kurmanji is the dialect spoken in all parts of Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria (approximately 75%); making it a common denominator in all parts of Kurdistan. On the other hand, Sorani is a widely spoken as well; spoken in both Iraq and Iran. Moreover, throughout the years, it has contributed enormously to the field of academia and literature.

The same way as Sorani has made tremendous contributions to the field of academia, Kurmanji is also an integral part of the Kurdish literature, with considerable literary contributions by immense poets and writers dating back to 13 century. To name a few, Ali Heriri, Meleye Jeziri, Faqye Teyra, Ahmed-e–Khani, and Cigerxwen. Furthermore, in the past few decades in the Bahdinan region, hundreds of books have been published by contemporary literary giants such as Badirkhan Sindi, Muhsin Quchan, Mu’ayad Tayib, and Arif Hito.

At present, the province of Duhok is the only region where the once endangered dialect, Kurmanji, is surviving and being used in the education system freely. It is extremely vital for KRG’s newly appointed Minister of Education, Safeen Dizay, to protect and promote the Kurdish language by wisely allocating the resources of its ministry, and taking into consideration¬ - with an open mind - the view point and wishes of all its citizens

Due to the dilemma and conditions that Kurds are living in today, imposing or choosing a dialect over another is a self-destructive policy; it will further divide our nation, and create a state of mistrust amidst the citizens of Kurdistan. We must think clearly as nation, and plan ahead to bring our people closer to better understand one another, and build a sense of nationhood in their hearts and minds.

It is imperative for any nation to have official languages as it is one of the unifying factors; however, the ground works for such plan must be well calculated and thought out. For the predicament in Kurdistan today, the best solution is to allow the provinces or regions to freely choose the medium of education. Moreover, regional dialects, as a special Kurdish language course, should be a requirement as a part of the curriculum in education system. Implementing such policy would enable the next generation of students, (i.e. from Sullimania or Duohk), to easily communicate, verbally or in a written form, regardless of dialect.

A dual-dialect education system will prepare the next generation of Kurds to easily communicate with one another in either dialects. Furthermore, it will help break down the walls, help transform the next generation to easily understand one another, and will pave the way for the creation of a unified Kurdish language.

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