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Attack on Kurdish Language

In recent years, Kurdish culture has been under brutal attack on all fronts from the use of its language to the education of children. Kurds have had to fight for their rights to demonstrate their culture without fear from governments of the Middle East in Iran and Turkey 

In Iran, the simple act of using the Kurdish Language and teaching it to children is a crime punishable by extensive prison times. On January 8th, 2022, Zara Mohammadi was sentenced to 5 years in prison by the Islamic Court of Iran for charges that she “damaged the stability and security of the Iranian System”. This sentence represents a clear violation of Iran’s own constitution that explicitly states that “the use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching of their literature in schools” is allowed. This persecution while existing with other groups is mainly focused on the Kurdish people. Since the drawing of middle eastern borders by European powers, Kurds have had no right to study or teach their language in Iran or in Turkey. 

In Turkey, Kurdish organizations are not only disadvantaged by government regulations, but they are also actively pushed out by them. After an attempted coup attempt on July 15th, 2016, Turkish President Erdogan took the crisis as a pretext to use his extended emergency powers to crack down on all opposition, including the Kurds who had nothing to do with the coup. This led to mass closures of news organizations, primary schools, and cultural institutions simply because they served the Kurdish people. A television channel that translated children’s cartoons in Kurdish was also taken off the air and accused of “diffusing terrorist propaganda. Street musicians were fined for playing Kurdish songs. By December 31st, 2016, 94 organizations were shut down for supposed terrorist’s links without any proof or evidence. All documents, hardware, computers, and bank accounts related to these groups were seized with no actual way for them to be retrieved. In 2019, the Kurdish Theater Festival was banned as it was said to be a “threat to public safety”. 

With these dystopian restrictions on Kurdish culture, one is left to wonder when there will be peace, when there will be acceptance. When culture is attacked and suppressed, it becomes weaker, and the threat of erasure becomes increasingly stronger. Cultures must be allowed to thrive. Without this culture, we risk losing one of the strongest diasporas in the world. We must not allow these attacks to continue, and we must protect the Kurdish diaspora.  

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Gabriel Rousseau is a student at the Lycée français in Los Angeles.