Kurdish Language under threat
Kurdishaspect.com - By Hawar Jamal Ameen
I came back to live in Kurdistan last year after having spent most of my life in the UK. The last 15 years of my time there was spent living in Cardiff Wales and I was struck by the similarity of history and landscape that Wales shared with Kurdistan. Probably the thing that the Welsh are most proud of is their language and the Welsh Assembly actively tries to defend and promote it. Working in the refugee sector we were not only required to translate printed material into Welsh but also expected to do so by the Welsh speaking population and so being a “Welsh friendly” organisation maintained our organisations public image with politicians and the general public.
Having spent nearly one year back home in Kurdistan there is one thing above most others that concern me about our language and culture. Language is the strongest symbol of cultural identity and in that; the Kurdish identity is under threat right now.
The borders that divide the four parts of Kurdistan are increasingly being opened up to trade and in particular imports from Turkey. South Kurdistan is becoming a home and safe haven for many Iraqi Arabs and Christians fleeing from chaos and murder in other parts of Iraq. Whilst Kurdistan should be a welcoming place for anyone seeking asylum and safety what we need more than anything is a government led initiative to provide Kurdish language classes for those that have decided to make Kurdistan their home.
Today in Kurdistan if you go to a supermarket you will find product labels written completely in Turkish and or Arabic from product description, ingredients and any hazard warnings people buy blindly without knowing how to use the product safely.
Back in Wales, the Welsh Language Act provided the strategy for safeguarding their language and we in Kurdistan have to learn from them. We need a Kurdish Language Act so that importers and shops are required by law to label essential product information in Kurdish. We need a Kurdish Language Act so that Asylum Seekers can learn Kurdish and become part of the community not only so they can converse with the Kurdish community but also so that Kurdish citizens who don’t speak Arabic or Turkish can walk into a shop and understand the answer to a question they ask the shopkeeper.
More than anything however, we need a Kurdish Language Act to safeguard and promote the Kurdish national identity, as no other nation will do it for us.