Kurds have long been a people without a state of their own, but recent attempts to bolster and spread the Kurdish language are bearing fruit. Amongst these is the recent establishment of a Kurdish Language Institute – an organization which is already starting to claim victories for the language. The current civil unrest in Syria, for example, has led to less strict government control over Kurds in the country, which in turn has allowed for Kurdish language classes to flourish. Under the Syrian regime, Kurds have been persecuted and highly restricted in terms of expressing their own culture and language. Many Kurdish towns are now free of Syrian government troops and now entirely under Kurdish control. The Kurdish Language Institute is currently concerning itself with training as many new Kurdish teachers as possible, having recently announced the graduation of its first 300 teachers.
Turkey is also loosening its restrictions on the Kurdish language, with history being made recently when Kurdish was deemed to be allowed in Turkish court. Likewise, schools in Turkey are now beginning to offer Kurdish lessons – a huge change for a country in which one could have been arrested for speaking Kurdish only two decades ago. The loosening of language restrictions comes have many years of struggle which many Kurds in Turkey hope will be the beginning of floodgates opening towards greater autonomy and equality.
Iraq is another country with a large Kurdish population that has been undergoing significant changes over the last ten years. Since the removal of Saddam Hussein, Kurds have gained more power and autonomy in Iraq, but now there are concerns amongst Kurdish leadership that their language is not well supported by law. Moves are being made to create laws which would effectively enforce the use of Kurdish and Arabic in public places – fines would be given to people using only English without giving proper respect to local languages, for instance. The leadership in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region feel this is a necessary step to ensure Kurdish is not absorbed by other regional languages.