Need for language planning and development for Kurdish

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Oct 11 12:29:02 UTC 2006

October 10, 2006

No intellectual base for Kurdish nationalism

By Jawad Qadir, Azad Aslan & Compiled by Mohammad A. Salih

The Kurdish Globe

He says that the idea of independence has not been fully enshrined in the
agendas of the Kurdish political parties and organizations.

For him nationalism is a product of national movements, and more than that
he does not believe that Kurds have been successful in elaborating their
Kurdish nationalism. He does not recognize language as a lasting criterion
of "Kurdishness"; and being a nation to him, is more or less a constructed
entity. Hashem Ahmadzadeh, a professor at the University of Exeter, UK,
and author of the book, Nation and Novel, was on a quick trip to Kurdistan
recently. The Kurdish Globe spoke to him about the question of nationalism
in relation to the "Kurdish identity". Due to the nature of the interview,
we decided to publish the dialogue as a whole.

Turkish nationalism first powerful nationalism in the region

Globe: We begin with the simple, yet difficult question of Kurdish Issue.
How would you define it from an academic perspective? What is it that
characterizes it? Could one speak of the historicity of the Kurdish issue?
Has it a background of its own?

Dr Ahmadzadeh: If I have understood your question, I should say that the
expression of the Kurdish issue is problematic. If you mean Kurdish
nationalism or Kurdish problem they are two different things. And like
anything else there is nothing that lacks history. There is always some
background for any phenomenon that you deal with. If you mean again
definition or characteristic features of Kurdish nationalism, it is better
to talk about its genealogy, its origin; then try to discuss its very
peculiarities due to the fact that it has been subject to different
discourses, and different historical backgrounds depending on the very
nature of its divided and fragmented aspects.

Due to the time limit that we have and especially because of the character
of the interview, I may reduce the theoretical background. Nationalism as
it has generally been discussed is a modern phenomenon. It is a modern
political discourse that arrived at the end of 18th century in a European
context. At the great date of 1789, the French Revolution brought a
fundamental change in the course of history. And it is in that very
important year, that the authority and the legitimacy of the power of
government is people. Before this great historical event, as you know,
always, the source of power and the legitimacy of governmental structures
were defined on the basis of powers beyond the capacity of people, for
instance God, empires or things like that.

Now, at the end of the 18th century we have the popular discourse of
giving the legitimacy or the source of power to people. Just ten years
after the French Revolution we see some sort of exporting of that idea to
the parts of the world which were located outside Europe. Here I refer to
Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, just ten years after the great French
Revolution. By this, the basis or the start of exporting nationalism in
the non-European context began. However, Napoleon's ambition had a
colonialist nature. During the late 18th century and throughout the 19th
century, some social and economic changes were occurring in the context of
Ottoman Empire, as the greatest empire in the Middle East, North Africa
and parts of Europe. Why I am referring to the Ottoman Empire, because at
that time, since the early 16th century, the land or the place of the
Kurds were actually divided between two great empires: the Ottoman Empire
and the Safavid Empire.

State nationalism; aiming to build state-nations

Dr Ahmadzadeh: The conflict between these two empires resulted in the
division of the land of the Kurds in 1514, the famous battle of Chaldiran.
During the 18th, and 19th century especially, or even before that some
signs of inter-relationship between the Ottoman Empire and the changes
that were happening in their modern context and the defeat and the
reducing of the power of Ottoman Empire resulted in some reforms, both in
the social and economic context.

During the 19th century there were many internal and external factors that
pushed changes within the framework of these empires. These changes paved
the way for a new social, political and cultural order. Even the signs of
some sort of intellectualism were emerging. The emergence of the Young
Ottomans is the first political sign of these changes. A major factor in
this process was related to the European nationalism. This process in its
course resulted in the revolution of 1908 of the Young Turks. In the whole
area if you just look with very precise historical eyes, in 1905 you had
the bourgeois democratic revolution in Russia, during 1906-1911 you had
the Constitutional Revolution in Iran, in 1908 you had the revolts of the
Arabs against the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire lost its legitimacy
and authority. It was, at the end of the WWI, when the process of
fragmentation and disorder accompanied the rise and development of Turkish
nationalism. And this Turkish nationalism is the first powerful
nationalism in the Middle East and even west Asia. After that you see
easily some sort of reaction to this Turkish nationalism, in an Arab
context and then you have Arab nationalism.

The revolution of the Young Turks and the Constitutional Revolution in
Iran, during the rule of the Qajar dynasty, were actually signs of
absorbing nationalist ideas. But, while in the European context, you have
nationalism in parallel to modernization, to democratization, to the
rights of people, to individualism, to progress and to freedom, in both
the Ottoman and Qajar context, you had state nationalism or aiming to
build state-nations while you had not the necessary traces for such a
plan. The other manifestations of modernity, for instance individualism,
human rights and democratic rights were not there.

And just because of that the models that were adopted by these two empires
were, in fact, imposing an ideology far from its prerequisites. Both Reza
Khan in Iran and Mustafa Kemal in Turkey aimed to build their so-called
nation states at the cost of all non-Persia and non-Turkish ethnicities.
The building of these two Iranian and Turkish nation states was
practically a synonym to denying the very rights of the other components
of both empires. They easily ignored the other components of these two
empires. The very nature of this arbitrary and despotic situation resulted
in a reaction to the policy or the politics of these two newly emerged
states. When you are denied and subjected to assimilation and adapting a
compulsory identity, as a Turk or as an Iranian, you have all
presuppositions to use every opportunity to show your resistance. Your
ethnic and social background and consistency make it necessary to react
against these waves of nation-building at the cost of eliminating or
ignoring your existence even as an ethnic group. This resulted in some
sort of struggle against this policy of denial and assimilation and even
elimination. Then we can say that the beginning of nationalism in this
part of the world began with Turkish nationalism and other nationalisms
were in the first hand a reaction to or an imitation of that sort of
nationalism, as Turkish nationalism was itself to a great extent a
reaction to the European nationalism. Nationalism in Iran, though it was
emerging in a different context, had more or less same character. Later on
you see, for example, Jewish nationalism, Armenian nationalism and
Palestinian nationalism. Palestinian nationalism was in fact a reaction to
Jewish nationalism.

Creating new nations in Middle East not successful

Dr Ahmadzadeh: The Kurdish nationalism is not an exception to this
cause-effect rule. The fact that the early manifestation of the Kurdish
nationalism began in Istanbul, shows its character as far as the Turkish
nationalism is concerned. The consequences of the First World War and the
second division of Kurdistan among the new states imposed its particular
effects on the nature of Kurdish nationalism. Because of the borders that
were drawn between different parts of Kurdistan, each part gained
different characteristic features. When the colonial powers, the British
mandate in Iraq, after the WWI tried, based on their strategies and
policies, link the Iraqi Kurdistan, at that time a 'Villayet' or province
of Ottoman Empire to Iraq this part of Kurdistan became a subject to the
British colonialism. The parts of Kurdistan that remained outside this
part later on become part of Syria, under the mandate of French
authorities, and the larger part was left to Turkey. There were at that
time some well-known political events, the treaty of Sevres in 1920 and
the treaty of Lausanne in1923. Although there were some promising articles
in the treaty of Sevres for the Kurds, however, due to many internal and
external factors they were never realized.

We must talk about the Kurdish problem which is in a way, at least, after
WWI, a collection of four different policies, say four different
strategies. In each of these four newly-built countries, all of them
wanted in a way to subjugate the Kurds into their own so-called national
identity, Turkish, Arabic and Persian. They had, based on their
historical, political and geopolitical situations, different strategies
for Kurds. After the first great revolt against the policies of the
Kemalists in Turkey in 1925, Sheikh Saeed Piran's revolt, the very policy
of the Turkish state was the absolute denial of Kurds. There are no Kurds
and there are famously quotations from the Turkish authorities that the
only duty that the non-Turkish people in that country had was to be
servant of the Turks.

The Kurds, despite all the difficulties that they faced, never stopped
struggling against the policies [of the Turkish state]. There have been
several uprisings in Turkey during different eras of Turkish history.
Especially at the 1980s you see a very popular movement that showed
capability to challenge the Turkish authorities to say that we are still
here. This movement is still going on and is there.

In Iraqi Kurdistan it has another story and likewise in Iranian Kurdistan
and Syria. All these serious specific characteristics of these Kurdish
movements, show that we have a Kurdish problem or problems. This problem
means that the classical or the totalitarian ways of creating new nations
in the Middle East has not been successful. There must be a radical
revision of what has been going on during the 20th century.

In Iraq after seven to eight decades of trying to create an Iraqi nation,
we now see the result that there is no nation. If we define the nation as
a subjective phenomenon in which the members of that nation relate to each
other based on their view, as Rousseau says "general will", and later on
has been defined more precisely, as an imagined community, in which the
members of a nation without knowing each other feel a strong affiliation
to each other. It has never been such a phenomenon in Iraq, so is the case
even in Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Now, the Kurdish problem is not a problem in which we can say that there
is an ethnic group that defines itself as Kurds and struggles for creating
a state. It is rather a problem within the context of all these countries.
In other words, it is the problem of 'the other' ethnic or national groups
in the Middle East. Without solving this problem, we can never imagine
that there would be a democratic Iran, Syria, Turkey or Iraq.

Globe: You mean that the Kurdish problem is similar to the problem of
other ethnic groups in the region. You know there are also other ethnic
groups in these countries except Kurds...

Dr Ahmadzadeh: Of course there are other groups. For example, in Iran
there are Azeris, Turkomans, Baloochs, and Arabs and there are other
minorities both religious and ethnic.

In Iraq, the Kurdish movement has been a crucial factor in both destroying
and aiming to rebuild Iraq. The Kurdish problem is a political problem. It
has demonstrated itself in its continuous struggles and endeavors for
getting or obtaining democratic rights.

Nationalism is a political ideology; popular sovereignty

Globe: I think most people, and by that I mainly refer to the Kurdish
intellectuals and politicians, have extremely vague and sometimes even
simple comprehension of the notion of nationalism. If you just read the on
line articles written by Diaspora Kurds, some of whom even deserve genuine
academic respect, you'll realize that these gentlemen criticize without
offering an option to the problem at all. Ironically enough they often
call for a total abolishment of the existing political establishment
labeling it as ignorant and corrupted.

Dr Ahmadzadeh: Let me say, first of all, what I mean by nationalism. For
me nationalism is a political ideology which inspires popular sovereignty.
It is the general and mostly-accepted definition by many theoreticians
that have worked on nationalism. But the question is that how it is
feasible? How can we be inspired by the ideology of nationalism to create
the nation? And as far as the intellectual faces of nationalism is
concerned, in the European context or in Germany, you have people like
Fischte that theorized the ideas of nationalism towards the creation of
the German nation. Later on, that policy or ideology was imitated by many
other European countries. In the case of French for example we may talk
about a nationalism based on citizenship.

The main ideologue behind the Great Revolution was a man like Jean Jacques
Rousseau. In the Kurdish context I absolutely agree that we lack this
intellectual background.

If you ask me about the manifestation or the aims of Kurdish nationalism,
I have problems to introduce that to you. There have been some studies
concerning the genealogy of Kurdish nationalism. Although there are
differences between the scholars on Kurdish nationalism, but I personally
do not recognize and see an intellectual base for the formulization and
theorization of Kurdish nationalism. And even if there had been some
reflections of Kurdish nationalist movement in Kurdish literary discourse,
for example in Kurdish poetry or in Kurdish novelistic discourse, it has
been far from an organic relationship with the Kurdish political movement
of Kurdish nationalism.

In other words, the Kurdish nationalist movement, as it has been
characterized and canalized within the framework of Kurdish political
parties, has rarely been defined by its aim toward self-determination or
creation of a Kurdish nation. For many years, the main slogan or motto of
the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) here or the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan (PUK) has been autonomy. And it is only after 1992 that we see
the case of federalism. We are talking about a federalism which is for me
very problematic.

If you just compare it with the very nature of federalism by definition in
its European, American or western context, then we talk about some sort of
federalism that we alone as Kurds claim and demand without having a real
prepared base from the other side.

The question of the Kurds and "their others", "their counterparts", or the
people that they share a territory with has got different stages and
different characteristic features during the whole 20th century.

No intellectual attempt to theorize Kurdish nationalism

Dr Ahmadzadeh: If we want to talk about the very contradictory terms as
far as Kurdish nationalism is concerned, one can theoretically debate it
and discuss it. For me as an outsider, and a scholar, I just see and look
for the very characteristic features and demands and the platform of these
Kurdish political parties, but judging them is not my job. Judging is a
very subjective issue. Do I like it or don't I like it is another issue.

I can't easily say that the demands and the platforms that you arrange in
your political parties in the way of struggle for obtaining [your rights]
is always related to the power that you have. If you are powerful, for
example, like now that we are more or less powerful in the Iraqi context,
you can impose your demands. The contribution of external factors, for
example, the presence of Americans here, and the very geopolitical
characteristic feature of the area probably in short term or in the very
near future, allows the Kurds in Iraq to demand more than they have
already asked. It is actually related to the balance of the power between
the central government and the Kurdish movement in this part.

As far as the intellectuals are concerned, I do not see intellectual
evaluation or attempt to theorize the nature of Kurdish nationalism.

The conflict is there; you lack both the intellectual base for Kurdish
nationalism and you lack, based on many reasons, the aim of creating a
Kurdish nation-state. The demand for an independent Kurdistan has not been
reflected or has not been manifested in the programs of the major
political parties.

You know, if you are to discuss or debate the theoretical basis and
features of cause-and effect relationship of nation and nationalism, these
debates have already been done by the great theoreticians. Within the last
four decades there has been a journal called "Nationalism" which always
discusses these problematic features of nationalism with its different
schools: German, French, constructivism, modernism, subjective, objective,
pre-modern, essentialism, ethnic symbolic, primordial, etc. Nationalism
itself as a concept that has been divided into more than twenty
subcategories. These debates have been done and there are different ideas
about all these issues. I think we cannot solve the problem here and right

No nation without nationalist movements

Globe: Have there been genuine nationalist movements within the hundred
years that have passed? Or have we just failed to develop a nationalist
approach to that end [having a state]? Your assumption is that creating a
nation is more or less 'a legitimate quest' for power and that (creating a
nation), in most cases, is a direct product of national movements. You
also say that nationalist movements are assisted, if not directly
manufactured, by elaborate nationalist thinking. When you say that we
haven't been able to " theorize the nature of Kurdish nationalism,' don't
you also say that Kurds haven't had nationalist movements in this sense.

Dr Ahmadzadeh: Let us be very clear and specific about the terms we use
for our discussion. When I discuss and define nationalism, without a
nationalist movement you can never have a nation. For me, based on my
studies on nationalism, nation is something that you construct. Nation is
not always there. The features of nationalisms in the region have in a way
affected Kurdish nationalism.

If we agree about the constructive nature of any nation, then if we aim to
construct our nation with its own characteristic features, first of all
democratic and based on all democratic rights, we must see the process of
nation-building as a process that can be related to Kurdish cultural
roots, as Anderson says, for every nation tries to use these cultural
roots to legitimize and construct the very identity of that nation.

The creation of a state if it is necessary for being considered as a
nation, as for instance Giddens asserts, that being a nation is
necessarily equal to having a nation-state; if it is the case, then
creating this nation-state in the very way that we talked about is not
solely the result of our theoretical debates.

If you do not have the power and ability to organize yourself, based on
the resources that you have, it is not easy to create a nation-state. But
we can not just wait to be so powerful to cerate our nation state and
repeat what others have done. I personally do not want a nation-state that
should repeat what Reza Khan in Iran did or what Kemal Ataturk in Turkey
did, or different governments within Iraqi state did.

Globe: You mean that Kurds could have a nation without necessarily using
undemocratic means?

Dr Ahmadzadeh: Yes, for me the creating of Kurdish nation should be and it
can be equal to the foundation and constructing of a nation which is in
itself democratic and can obtain all the democratic rights. It is not
contradictory, it is what we should aim at, otherwise, the models that we
have in the Middle East are not good models. They are not democratic and
they are not based on the debates that we had in Europe. For example, the
ideologue of the Turkish nationalism, who was by accident a Kurd, Zia
Gogalp, was very interested in the French context and admired French
philosophers, but he did what was needed to create that sort of nation
that Ataturk wanted.

The result, not only for the Kurds in Turkey, but also for the Turks
themselves, has been a state far from being a democratic one during the
past nine decades. Now this Kurdish nationalist movement, if we accept it,
or if we agree that it is represented by the Kurdish political parties in
different parts of Kurdistan, has not had the creation of a nation state
in its agenda. Right or wrong, it is their problem. For me as an outsider,
as a scholar, what is important is that we or the Kurdish intellectuals
should try to facilitate the very basis of creating that imagined
community that we mentioned, to have the very reasons to be linked
together as a nation, not necessarily based on our ethnic origin, not
based on our ethnic realities, not based on other objective elements of
being a nation. As a matter of fact, the objective elements or sources of
being a nation, as classically has been pointed out, for instance,
territory, common history, common culture, and language, are problematic
for us. Look at the language, look at our ethnography, and look at even
different identities in some cases based on our diverse and fragmented
nation in different parts of Kurdistan.

The Kurds suffer from having been subjected to different policies. They
are in many cases far from each other. They have shown, during the whole
20th century, at least, that they are looking for something. Among the
objectives of various Kurdish movements one can refer to justice,
democracy, freedom, and so on. The ideal objective, it is independence,
cannot be achieved without being so powerful to challenge the power of the
existing governments. But, something is possible, especially here in Iraqi
Kurdistan, where we have already achieved many bases for creating a
nation. And it is the establishing of a cultural policy to show that this
nation functions as a body, despite the fact that it consists of different
classes, types, cultural groups. There must be a constructive policy
toward defining itself as a nation with a common will and program to
present itself in the world arena.

Language not so much of a criterion

Globe: let's talk about the language. Kurdish language has a wide variety
of dialects. Most of these regional dialects stand close to one another
but there are also very different Kurdish dialects that sometime make it
almost impossible for Kurds from different parts of Kurdistan to
communicate. Take Zaza and Hawramani for instance; both Kurdish dialects
but still so far from each other. Is language determinant in question of

Dr Ahmadzadeh: Let me take it in a broader context. If we say that nation
is a constructive phenomenon, it means that all its elements can be
constructed, including the language. And there are many examples in the
world that the issue of language, which is very sensitive, has been
created by the nationalist movement. Just look at the Israeli state, they
created Hebrew based on the Old Testament after 1948. As a matter of fact
the pioneers of Jewish nationalism who were mainly Jews from Europe did
not speak the very language that they later on created after 1948. They
spoke Yeddish, which was a lingua franca for the Jews, especially in
Europe. And when they came back after creating Israel they had a language
policy that resulted in creating or reconstructing the language which is
called Hebrew. And nowadays, all the Israeli leaders in their press
conferences and official talks use Hebrew. It is a national prestige for
them to speak Hebrew.

You see here that the language can be constructed. But the experience of
French Revolution and the creation of the French nation were not based on
a language that was already there with the French people speaking it. At
the time of French Revolution only 23% used to speak the dialect that
nowadays has been so dominant in the world which is called French. In
Italian context, it is absolutely interesting to notice that only four
percent of Italians talked the language that now we know as Italian. In
fact Italians were made, as one of their leaders once noticed, after
making of Italy. In the case of Finland, it is very famous and it has been
mentioned that the father of Finnish nationalism did not speak the Finnish
language. It was the same in the Philippines.

Now, believing in a one-to-one relationship between each nation and its
language is not right, because we have many nations that have the same
language. Look at the Latin American nation-states that all have Spanish
as their national language. In the case of America, adopting English as
the national official language is something that has been created; it is
not due to the very essential nature of English as a progressive or
complete language.

In the case of the Kurds, the issue is very sensitive. There are plenty of
references to the Kurdish language as the only element of Kurdish
identity. You easily hear here and there by many Kurdish literary men
that, for example, Mam Hajar, in his Henbane Borine says that to be a Kurd
necessarily means to speak Kurdish. The definition or the identity of
Kurds is equal to talk in Kurdish. But in practice, we have big problems.
The opponents of the Kurds, especially the nation-states have always tried
to say that Kurds do not have a common language and they have many
dialects. It is natural. No nation in the world from the very beginning
has had a standard language. It is a process of construction of the nation
and the standardization of the language.

In the case of the Kurds, as of the rise of nationalism, Turkish, Arabic
and Persian have been synonym to the dominance of one single language and
the omission and ignoring of other languages. Kurds have always felt that:
Ok Arabs have their language as Arab nation, which is Arabic, so we must
have our language as Kurdish. It is partly right, but at the same time it
is problematic. Because in the absence of a state apparatus, especially a
functioning education system, in the absence of a well-developed
industrial society, in the absence of a well-developed communication
system, you can never imagine that a language in itself can be

Just look at English as a language and its very short history, not more
than 900 years, and its changes in terms of vocabulary, semantics and
syntactic show that language is not a static phenomenon that you can
always refer to.

The every language that was used by our great poets, Jaziri, Khani, Salim,
Mukri, Nali, and Mawlawi Tawagozi, was quite different from the language
that we Kurds now use. I mean terminologically, most of the words that
were adopted by for example, Jaziri and Khani, had its root in the
cultural background which was Arabic and Persian. Now, as a reflection,
some Kurdish nationalists have thought probably right that the creation of
the Kurdishness must be necessarily synonym to speaking Kurdish.

But in reality we see that many Kurdish active nationalist personalities
could not speak that language. The Kurdish nationalist movement in
northern Kurdistan is a good example for this and the other examples that
we mentioned of other languages and nationalist movements, show that one
can be a nationalist within a nationalist movement, without necessarily
speaking that language which is particular to that nation. In other words,
one can be a Kurdish nationalist and still speak only Persian, Arabic or

But that nation which is aimed to be created necessarily needs the medium
of communication and that is the official language that must be spread all
over the country or land that that very nation lives in that. For Kurds,
if we experimentally want to examine the ability to adopt this policy, it
is not an easy question. You have two major dialects, if you don't mention
Zaza and Hewrami. And these two main dialects have been developed far from
each other both orthographically and politically and culturally.

If Iraqi Kurdistan was the only Kurdistan that we had, even in this
context, solving the problem of language between Badini and Sorani
wouldn't be easy. It is a problem that we face and we must through a
careful planning solve the problem democratically and scientifically.

The question of identity

Ahmadzadeh: All these things that you are mentioning can be framed within
a debate which is called "the question of identity" and it is both general
and specified. In other words, we have different sorts of identities.
National identity is only one of the identities that one can have.
National identity in the very world that we live, has been linked to the
nation-state. In other words, in a jurido-political context, you are
always supposed to identify yourself by your affinity to the very
nation-state that you live in.

Another aspect, which is very important to bear in mind, is that
identifying somebody is always simultaneous with defining somebody else,
"the other". The Kurdishness, in the linguistic context, needs to differ
itself from something which is not Kurdish, that is for example, Arabic,
Turkish or Persian. If only it were the Kurds in the world, without any
other language, then it would not have any meaning to claim to be a Kurd,
as far as the language is considered. Another important aspect that we
must bear in mind concerning the languages is that the languages and
linguistic discourses are not necessarily the only indicators of being
considered a nation.

Because right now we have about 6,000 languages in the world. But how many
states do we have? Say 200. In other words, it is more than 5,800
languages that lack their own nation states. But concretizing it or making
it very specified as far as the Kurds are considered due to the very
nature of the Kurdish nationalist movement and due to the fact that the
Kurds have been subjected to different political identities in different
countries, they have been denied mastering their own language. In some
cases you have even been denied to use your language in daily life.

Kurdishness a political issue with political aims

You can never imagine creating a nationalist discourse based on that
language, at least, in its early stages. It needs time. As we have seen in
the Kurdish nationalist context in Turkey that in the beginning they even
did not have a journal in Kurdish. But now they have issued a statement
that all Kurdish institutes and organizations must communicate in Kurdish.

Now, Kurdish as a language, for being in the status of an official
standard language right now, is far from reality in the near future. It
needs language policy, cultural policy to be constructed, to be developed,
and to be a medium of education in the very beginning of the education up
to the university level. And what can happen to all these different
dialects is a matter of open discussion. I can easily say that believing
in the fact that a nation must have only one language is wrong. It can
only result in what happened in Turkey or in Iran. Iraq is different
because from the early time of building Iraq during the British mandate,
they gave some rights to education in Kurdish.

We can easily talk about having two standard languages, or bilingualism,
or a plural approach towards the issue of language. There are good
examples in the world to be adapted.

One can not exclude many Kurds from the nationalist movement because they
do not speak Kurdish. It is a catastrophe, because then we lose a lot of
our forces.

Dr Ahmadzadeh: Let me simply say that the language is important, but the
nation has got not only a cultural element in itself, but it is mostly a
political construction. If we agree that nation is a political
construction, then talking in Kurdish is not necessarily the only criteria
of being a Kurd. Just look at the trial of Saddam and his cousin Ali
Hassan al-Majid. He refers to 250,000 Kurds who were serving the Ba'athist

We saw them on TV that they (Kurds) were guiding the Iraqi army during the
Anfal operations. They were Kurds, they were in Kurdish cloths and they
were speaking Kurdish, but we consider them as traitors or 'Jashes'. You
see that easily, that speaking Kurdish is not equal to being a Kurd.
Kurdishness is first of all a political issue with its political aims.

But after talking all this, a nation always needs a medium or mediums of
communication and that medium or mediums of communication can be
constructed upon the very linguistic roots that we have. There is no
reason to consider Kurdish language not sufficient for being such a

We are not going, for example, to create the Esperanto language as our
national language. Our affiliation to this language is very strong. But,
as a matter of fact, this language needs improvement, planning,
dictionaries and linguistic plans, in order to make it free from the
category of languages in danger, i.e. the languages that are vanishing.
Until the time that we have not managed this, talking in Kurdish is not
necessarily equal to being a Kurd, and not talking Kurdish doesn't
necessarily mean that you are not a Kurd.


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