Kurdish language ... development after repression - 2

World War I ended with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Syria fell under the French mandate. Although the Kurds enjoyed a margin of freedom to write and publish, the restrictions on the Kurdish language soon returned after the declaration of independence.

Restrictions on the Kurdish language after the independence of Syria

We talked briefly in the first file about the stages of the development of the Kurdish language throughout history. We will talk in this part about  Kurdish language development in Syria following the World War I under the French Mandate and the declaration of independence of Syria to the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011.

Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 divided Kurdistan into four among four countries of different ethnic groups and different languages: Arabic , Persian and Turkish.

Kurdish was under attempts of the ruling regimes to melt the culture of the Kurdish society into their societies through policies  of melting other people cultures.

The ruling regimes deprived the Kurds of the right to teach in the mother tongue, so the Kurdish language remained in the context of the oral use, despite attempts by Kurdish intellectuals to preserve it in secret.

As mentioned above, the first Alphabet in Kurdish Latin was written by Prince Jalladet Badirkhan in 1924 and Badrkhan published the first newspaper, Hawar in Damascus in 1932 called. Although the magazine ceased to be published in 1935, it started again in 1941 during World War II.

During the French mandate, Ronahî Magazine was published in Damascus between 1942 and 1945. Roji Nu was published in Beirut between 1943 and 1946 while Stêr between 1943 and 1945.

Banning Kurdish since the independence

The Kurdish language has been banned since Syria's independence, but the Kurds have followed the Badirkhani family in Syria and Turkey, although writing in Kurdish at the time of the French Mandate was not banned with remarkable literary activity during that period.

However, after the French left without giving the Kurds any guarantees of their rights in 1946, and the establishment of the nation-state in Syria,  Kurdish was banned and pressure on the Kurds increased significantly as large numbers were deprived of the Syrian citizenship in 1962. The fascist Arab Belt Project was carried out in the agricultural areas of the kurds where the government took over the kurds land and gave them to the people whose lands were flooded in the countryside of Al-Raqqa, all within the framework of the policies of Arabization and smelting the Kurdish society in the Arab crucible.

"Since the spread of nationalist ideology in Syria, the pressure has increased on the Kurds under chauvinistic governments.  Having a book in Kurdish could lead him to prison to forget the mother tongue," said Dr. Barzo Mahmoud, adding that "any language that is not taught remains deficient." 

One of the most important works of the 1950s was the" Kurdish Grammar" by Rasheed Kurd. In 1955, Osman Sabri founded with a group of friends the" Komela Vejîna Çanda" Kurd in Damascus, with the aim of teaching Kurdish.  

 In 1957, Syria's first Kurdish party was secretly founded and published the Kurdish periodical in Latin alphabet "Dengê Kurd that issued political articles until the party's defection in 1965.

During the 1960s and 1970s, only two books were published in Kurdish in Beirut, due to repression in Syria, where writers published their books under pseudonyms, the first one by Akram Jamil Pasha and the second by the poet Jagerkhwin.

In 1957, Syria's first Kurdish party was secretly founded and published a Kurdish periodical in Latin letters "Dengê Kurd", publishing political articles, and continuing to publish in Kurdish until the party's defection in 1965. During the 1960s and 1970s, only two books were published in Kurdish in Beirut, due to repression and prohibition in Syria, where writers published their books under pseudonyms, the first by Akram Jamil Pasha and the second by the poet Jakarkhoin.

According to Dr. Mahmoud, the Kurdish movement  was unable to do anything in the face of Chauvinist governments,  so learning in Latin was not before the early 1980s.

Arabisation policies

In April 1962, as part of the ongoing Arabization policies and the promoting the Arab nationalism, the government of Syrian President Nazim al-Qudsi conducted a census on the Kurdish majority areas in Al Jazeera region whereby some 120,000 people were deprived of their citizenship thus deprived of many rights as  property registration, getting marriage documents and completing their studies, and their children became non-citizens.

In 1963, the Baath regime seized power in Syria, continuing Arabization policies through the Arab Belt Project, which was put forward by the head of the Political Security Division in Al-Hasakeh, Mohammed Taleb Hilal to deprive them from their lands, and prevent them from learning in their own language, at a time when Assyrians and Armenians were allowed to open private schools and cultural associations

 The Baath policies were a model of the cultural genocide; it prevented registering Kurdish names, changed the names of Kurdish cities and villages as well as preventing speaking and writing in Kurdish. Until in 1988 a law was passed to define March 21 as Mother's Day in order to prevent Kurds from celebrating Newroz, which falls on the same date.

Few publications

Under the repression, the annual Agahî magazine was published by Mala Hassan Kurd "Hasan Hashari" on his own expense for 19 years from 1966 to 1984.

The literary magazine Gulistan was also published by the poet Jagarkhwin. In 1979 Gelawêj Magazine was published in small numbers, as described by Dr. Mahmoud, but despite this its impact, it cannot be compared with Hawar.

During that period a series of periodicals were also issued by Stêr political parties between 1983-1993, Xunav between 1986-1995, and Roj and Newroz in 1995.

The first independent periodical in Syria was Gurzek Gul in 1989-1992. There were cultural literary periodicals such as Zanîn between 1991 and 1997, Aso in 1992, Pirs in 1993, Hêvî in 1993, Delav in 1995, Xwendevan in 1995.

The impact of these publications has been limited under the policies of Syria against the Kurds, the secrecy of the publication of these magazines and periodicals and their lack of access to the hands of all.

Continued ban on Kurdish

As differences between Iraq and Syria Baath parties increased and the Turkish government. The pressure on the Kurdish people was eased slightly, but the ban on writing and publishing in Kurdish remained especially after the clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and the government in 1976. and the situation remained the same until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. 

In this context, Dr. Barzo Mahmoud says that the pressures of the Baath Party continued, with little regard for some things, but the Kurdish did not develop in this period for several reasons, including that the educated class did not carry out its duty properly, and Kurdish writing  was not from a national point of view, and some writers were looking for fame more than seeking to develop the language.

Regional and international developments reflected on the situation of Kurds in Syria

In the 1980s, many expatriates Kurdish intellectuals returned to Syria and opened a large number of institutes that interested in the Kurdish language. The first of which was the Kurdish Institute in Paris in 1983, and with the return of Kurdish intellectuals increased their interest in the Kurdish language. 

In the early 1990s, the number of  writers increased and it was the most productive decade for books and publications, due to the development of the political movement in Bakûr, Başûr and Rojava.

At the end of the 1990s, following strained relations between Turkey and Syria, the latter's acromion to the former through signing Adana security agreement, which mainly targets Kurds. The pressure on increased dramatically and Syrian security services began to pursue Kurdish party leaders and intellectuals, and imposed severe restrictions on the Kurdish language.

Policies of repression under Assad, the son.

In 2001, the Printing and Publishing Act was passed, which stipulates that the owners of publishing houses are obliged to submit a blueprint for all their publications and numbers and submit a copy to the Ministry of Information with  information of the writer, author and translator. Each publisher who wishes to print has a license from the Ministry of Information. the ministry did not agree to publish Kurdish books on the grounds that the book is not suitable for publication or that they have no experience in the Kurdish language.

Following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in 2003, Syria's Baath worked to stir up strife between Kurds and Arabs in Rojava which witnessed in March 2004 the Uprising of Qamishlo. Following  the uprising the repression increased against the Kurdish people . "Syrian security forces have tightened their surveillance of publishing house owners, even those who accepted publication sought to publish at high prices that no longer dared to print." Writers said.

"The pressure swelled considerably considering that the Kurds are still hardliners of their nationalism, similar to Turkish repressive policies, so that more restrictions on language had to be imposed to kill the sense of nationalism and melt Kurdish nationalism in Arab society," dr. Mahmoud said of this period, noting that between 2005 and 2010, two books were secretly printed, in Damascus, through brokers and large sums of money.

However, periodicals were published at the time, according to research: Gulistan, Pirs, Newroz, Jîn, Roj, Azadî. The first three are in Kurdish, the other are in Kurdish and Arabic, and the following newspapers are Jîn, Roj, Azadî, but they had limited impact.

"The development of language is directly linked to cultural awareness within societies," dr. Mahmoud said, adding that "very few Kurds have entered school, and finished their studies in the 1970s, i.e. there was no interest in scientific study."

In conclusion, Dr. Barzo Mahmoud said that the prerequisite for the development of the language is to teach it, because teaching means establishing and reviving the identity of the language, stressing that the development of the Kurdish language is not impossible.

 Tomorrow: The Kurdish Language Revolution in Syria

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