Monday, 02 July 2012, 08:21 GMT
The expectation and the right in the mother tongue

Professor Dr. Kadri Yildirim, the Director of the Institute of Living Languages/GLOBE PHOTO/Mehmed Sabri Akgönül

The Kurdish Globe
Interview by Mehmed Sabri Akgönül

Recently, the Turkish state took a decision to designate Kurdish language as an elective course, as part of their drive to rekindle the stagnated "Kurdish Opening". This decision will implement in coordination with the Institute of Living Languages at Mardin Artuklu University.

The Kurdish Globe was able to interview Professor Dr. Kadri Yildirim, the Director of the Institute of Living Languages. He is a professor of Arabic literature and language, whose research has specialized in the works of Kurdish classic literature. In addition, he has considerable works in the Kurdish and Turkish languages in relation to Ahmad-i Khani.

Globe: How long are your ongoing efforts in relation to the Kurdish language at the University of Mardin Artuklu? Would you give us information about the level of studies?

Kadri Yildirim: We have been working for two years on the Kurdish language. We have achieved some important works. There are two departments at the university. One of them is that the Kurdish Language and Culture. Master classes are offered in this section. 40 graduate students are studying now. Secondly, the Kurdish Language and Literature department was opened within the Faculty of Literature. These sections are used all the means of education in Kurdish. Graduate program theses have written in Kurdish.

There are 40 students for graduate and in September and they will submit their thesis. Moreover 20 students in a graduate program also will begin in September. The names of courses in this program are as follows: The Kurdish Language and its Dialects, Kurdish Grammar, Lexicography, Classic Kurdish Literature, Modern Kurdish Literature, and Paleography. We have sent the students Iraqi Kurdistan for Paleography course. To get to the work done in Iraqi Kurdistan, after sending our students to do research there in our students learned an effective level Arabic alphabet.

One of the professors who graduate and undergraduate courses, and three assistant professors, lecturers, including six of the 10 faculty members also served as a staff. Instructors of Kurdish language departments are still teaching the Kurdish-language elective lessons. For each step faculty team of aforementioned departments has been working to prepare textbooks and material. The number of students in Undergraduate program is 20. We have applied to the Turkey's Higher Education Board (YOK) to raise the quota to 100, but they gave us the authority to open permanent staff for 35 persons. To increase the quota we will apply once more. I hope that this demand will be implement. Following the decision, particularly since the new elective courses in Kurdish, instructors will need to be taken.

In addition, we have opened the 'Kurdish Instructor Candidate Training Course". 50 Applicants who are successful written exam and interview in the 500 are received certificates after the three-month intensive training. Kurmanji, Sorani Zazaki lessons continue uninterrupted.

Globe: What do you think about the recent decision by the Turkish state to allow elective courses in Kurdish?

Yildirim: The expectation and right of the Kurds in the mother tongue education. One-hour lessons per week for 2 or 3 hours neither solves the Kurdish problem, nor resolves the problems of the Kurdish language utility. We must emphasize that currently do not have the available infrastructure to accommodate the decision for Kurdish mother tongue education. We need to accept this reality. There are not enough infrastructures for books and curriculum, and the number of teachers. This step made facility for in the future if there was legislative amendment and then access to education in the mother tongue is positive. Of course, not enough in this present state, but this is an important preparation for a transition period and the next steps.

So thanks to major efforts in a few years, if in the future it will be decided legislative changes for mother tongue education, we could undertake an infrastructure preparation, preparation of textbooks, preparation of teacher until starting Education in mother tongue commences. It is not possible to say elective courses in Kurdish is sufficient for Kurds, however, it need to be evaluated as a very important step to allow further steps. We need to evaluate the space well. This is very important to fill the gap with a consensus. If we are satisfied on the consensus of the steps, the results of the reflections will be much more positive and inclusive.

Globe: What do you think is the most important thing at this stage?

Yildirim: The point is that who will give Kurdish elective courses. Firstly, graduates or people who have a Kurdish language teaching certificate will take a course about Kurdish literature and its dialects. It should start soon, for example who can start those course, or when they should start, it should be coordinated. Not only the Artuklu University, but also private Kurdish language teaching courses can do this. These institutions must work in a coordinated manner. We, as the Artuklu University, can train 1000 people in every 3 months.

Globe: What would be your institute's role on the decision of elective Kurdish-language course?

Yildirim: We are ready for every co-operation. We already prepared a report for the Ministry of National Education. We can handle it consensually. We can prepare Kurdish education programmes and also we have equipments about it. Besides, we've finished working on course books. If the Ministry of National Education says ok, we are ready for every deal. If this work is given to state headships, there may be some problems in practice. If there is any failure while practicing the elective Kurdish language lessons, it will not give the expected efficiency.

Globe: You mention that there should be a formation of consensus between existing private Kurdish Language Courses and the state universities. What would you think if the consensus doesn't happen?

Yildirim: If the settlement does not happen, it might occur serious problems. Kurds have been working on this issue for years. They have set up and organized language institutions, associations and also foundations with different names. If they include all these organizations to the reconciliation deal, there will probably be no protests and this step will be evaluated as a good one. However, the failure may be a high risk if the acting is not taken widely. Also, there is a political dimension of this issue.

Globe: What is the political dimension of this issue?

Yildirim: Frankly, it is very important where the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) will take part in this issue. The attitude of the BDP will determine the issue, which was negative until now. BDP and its affiliated institutes are somehow made involved in the process and if they are satisfied with the process, the negative reflection of this decision of the elective Kurdish-language lessons will be very positive. At the same time, this decision will have a big impact. Otherwise this step will be a little painful.
Globe: Has the decision for the Kurdish language to be an elective course ended the oppression on the Kurdish language, or has the politics of Turkey's assimilation directed towards the Kurds come to an end?

Yildirim: We can say that some oppression on the Kurdish language has remained. For example, one of the pressures on the Kurdish language is that in the Turkish alphabet the letters Q, Ê and W don't exist, but in the Kurdish language they are very common letters, and they were forbidden by the government. So now, we're going to use materials for the Kurdish classes and naturally we will use them. Indirectly there will be a great amount of recognition for the Kurdish language and so there will not be any more oppression on the Latin Kurdish alphabet. The curiosity for the Kurdish language will expand. So Turks will be interested.

Globe: How do you think the Kurdish elective courses will be practiced?

Yildirim: In Urfa and Mardin, Arabic and the Kurdish language are spoken. In Dersim and Bingol the Kurdish language dialects of Zazaki and Kurmanji are spoken. These cities will necessarily be prepared to be the pilot. We will teach the Kurmanci and Zazaki the same way they the Kurdish Regional Government teaches the Sorani and Kurmanji dialects. First of all the curriculum, a little later the textbooks will be prepared. The National Education Department approved books of the mother tongue, beginning in middle school. Those who get a Kurdish language certificate from various courses and masters programs will teach under the authority of the office of principals of cities and towns.

Did you give any official advice to the National Education Department about this practice. We have enough preparation for our pilot regions, but it is not enough for all of Turkey. In applying to the National Education Department, we suggested that whoever would like to do this work in our University's Kurdologie Department, they will have a written and oral examination. Those who are chosen will have an intensive summer course they will be awarded a certificate. We have forty Master Program students, and twenty undergraduate students. In September we requested one hundred undergraduate students. Potentially we have educated one hundred people. We would like to put them into practice, and we want to have our own faculty. Those who graduate from University or whoever is already a professor or teacher should apply and whoever we choose will have an intensive summer course. We'd like to give our list to the National Education Department. The National Education Department will give the teaching positions. This is our main idea. So after that, we could have as many as a thousand people educated, every three months. The number of graduates will expand, as the number of pilot region grows. That was our advice.

Globe: What is the Minister of Education Department's answer?

Yildirim: The Minister of the Education Department acted in a positive way, but there was one different idea: They wondered about the background of those who choose this course. We requested that all the department's graduates can apply for this program, but the Minister of Education Department says only Education Department, Turkish language and Literature teachers, Social Science teachers, and Turkish Teachers can apply. In our Institute in the 2012-2013 academic years, five hundred Master Program Students will be hired without Thesis. In one year, whoever completes this program will be hired as a Kurdish teacher. If the number of requests expands; in February 2013 academic year, there will be five hundred more people.

Globe: In Kurdish, there is more than one dialect. How would you structure the elective class?

Yildirim: This is our advice: The Kurdish Elective class will be called "Kurdish" and inside there will be the Kurmanji and the Zazaki dialects.

Globe: How do you see the future of the Kurdish language in Turkey?

Yildirim: The future of Kurdish is going to be very shiny. It's never been recognized and has been denied, assimilated, a language partially taught, in special courses, with Kurdish intellectuals, it successfully survived to the present time. I hope that the elective class decision will develop into mother tongue education. Certainly the main goal of our institute is to prepare necessary materials for that.