Is Kurdish a language of Civilization? Is Turkey’s tolerance hypocritical?

  • - By Dr Aland Mizell
  • 16/02/2012 00:00:00

Language is not only a means of speech but is a mirror of the soul; as a man speaks, so is he. Adding to the repertoire on the importance of language, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc recently said on a Turkish TV, “Thought is the fountain of speech.” Do you think an education in Kurdish would be as effective as in Turkish? Is Kurdish the language of a civilization? According to Deputy Arinc, the Kurdish language is not sufficient as a language of education; instead, education should be taught in Turkish, which is, in Arinc’s view, “a language of civilization.” This shows how much Mr. Bulent Arinc remains ignorant about civilization, ignorant about the importance of the mother tongue, and racist and hateful toward the Kurdish people. I wonder if Mr. Arinc has ever read the history of civilization. I wonder how many theses Deputy Arinc has written on the languages of civilization or how he came to a conclusion that ruled that the more than 40 million Kurdish-speaking people are using a non-civilized language. I wonder about the criteria that Mr. Arinc used to disqualify Kurdish as a language that is non-civilized, incapable of educating, and unworthy of the education system.

Mr. Arinc also is outspoken for the Gulenist Movement around world, and he is also a known follower of Gulen, having visited several of his schools overseas and praised the quality of the schools and their success in building the bridge between the two countries—Turkey and whatever host country he is in. I would like to ask Deputy Arinc about the Turkish Missionary Schools in Cote d’Ivoire, Philippines, Mindanao region, Zamboanga City, Banda Ache, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Zambia, Mongol, Lithuania, Albania, Kongo, Kirim, and the list goes on. I wonder besides Turkish and English what language they teach at these schools? Is it the Turkish language that made these schools successful? Is it the English language or the students’ own native language? I wonder if this is not hypocritical in solving the genuine Kurdish problem.

Research has shown that parents and educators should support children’s learning and retaining their native language. The Deputy Minister fails to understand that the mother language has a very powerful impact on the formation of the individual’s mental and emotional growth. Deputy Arinc fails to understand a child’s first expression, first feelings of happiness and fear, and his first words are though his native tongue. He fails to understand that the mother tongue has an important role in the process of thinking, including thinking about the Kurdish nation and civilization. Perhaps even the following cursory perusal of departments, educators, literary figures, and historical documents will cast doubt on his claims.

• Kurdology Department in Mardin Artuklu University.

• Kurdish language is being taught in schools and universities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

• Well-known Kurdish poet is Ell Herirl, who was born in 1425.

• E. B. Soane, Grammar of the Kurmanji or Kurdish Language, London, 1913. Idem, Elementary Kurmanji Grammar, Baghdad, 1919.

• von Le Coq, Kurdische Texte: Kurmangi-Erzahlungen und -Lieder nebst einer Zaza-Erzahlung, gesammelt und herausgegeben in der Urschrift und in Transkription mit Anhang und Wortsammlung Deutsch, Baba-kurdisch und Zaza, 2 vols., Berlin, 1903; repr. Amsterdam, 1979, 2 vols. in 1.

• T. Wahby and C. J. Edmonds. A Kurdish-English Dictionary, Oxford, 1966.

• E. Prym and A. Socin, Kurdische Sammlungen, Erzählungen und Lieder in den Dialekten des Tur ‘Abdin, St. Petersburg, 1887.

• Idem, Kurdische Sammlungen, Erzählungen und Lieder in den Dialekten des Tur ‘Abdin und von Bohtan, St. Petersburg, 1890.

• S. A. Rhea, “Brief Grammar and Vocabulary of the Kurdish Language of the Hakari District,” JAOS 10/1, 1872, pp. 118-56; repr. as a book (155 pages) under the same title n. p., 1872.

• E. B. Soane, Grammar of the Kurmanji or Kurdish Language, London, 1913. Idem, Elementary Kurmanji Grammar, Baghdad, 1919.

• Idem (V. Minorsky), Notes sur la secte des Ahle-Haqq.

Even arguably the world’s foremost linguist and intellectual Noam Chomsky stated in the summer of 2011, “I fully support the Kurds’ demand for access to education in their mother tongue, for we are not there yet,” speaking of the one state-sponsored Kurdish TV station and the few private Kurdish language courses. Ironically, this comment was published in Gulen’s newspaper, Today’s Zaman, in an article by Orhan Cengiz, “Noam Chomsky on the Kurds’ Arab Spring.” Supporting civil disobedience for the Egyptians but decrying it for the Kurds, Gengiz urged, “No one should try to get what they want by force when it is quite possible to achieve it through politics.” Again I ask if Turkey’s tolerance is hypocritical.

Dr. Aland Mizell is with the University of Mindanao School of Social Science, President of the MCI and a regular contributor to a number online media outlets, including .You may email the author

  • - By Dr Aland Mizell
  • 16/02/2012 00:00:00