Kurdish Language in Iran

Introduction

Iranian languages are a part of Indo-Iranian group of Indo-European family. The Iranian languages are divided into three categories:  Old Iranian (1000 until 331 BC), Middle Iranian (331 BC – 876 AD), and New Iranian (since 876 AD). Kurdish belongs to Iranian languages and it was spoken by the Medes who are considered to be the ancestors of today’s Kurds. Kurdish is composed of Kurmanji, Sorani, Hewrami, Kelhuri/Feyli, Zazaki/Dimilki/Kirmancki. Except for Zazaki, all other Kurdish dialects/languages are spoken in Iran. 

Kurdish-speaking people live in six provinces of Iran: Kurdistan, Ilam, Kermanshah, West Azerbaijan, Northern Khorassan, Razavi Khorassan provinces. Keluhri and Feyli are spoken in Kermanshah and Ilam, respectively, while some speak Sorani and Hewrami in Kermanshah province, too. The Kurdish people in Kurdistan province are Sorani and Hewrami, while the Southern part of West Azerbaijan province is soranophone and the Northern part Kurmanjophone. The Azeri-speaking people live in this province, too. Northern Khorassan is mostly Kurmanjophone while some kurmanji-speaking cities are located in Razavi province. The last two provinces are in North-East Iran, while the other four ones in Western Iran.

Kurdish Status In Iranian Constitution

Historically speaking, Persian has been declared as official language of Iran in three stages: 1906 when Mozafaradin Shah of Qajar signed the Mashruta Law (Persian Constitutional Revolution), but the other ethnic languages were free. Secondly, Reza Shah Pahlavi issues a rule in 1932 imposing Persian on all state employees and forbid any other languages including Kurdish. The Kurdish language was announced as a ‘’local dialect of Persian’’ and the Kurds as ‘’Mountainous Iranians’’. The third stage dates back 1979 Islamic Revolution leading to a new constitution in which the article 15 declared Persian as official language and authorized “teaching the literature of other languages’’, including Kurdish, in primary schools. Officially speaking, Kurdish was declared as a language for the first time in the history of Iran. This article has never been fully implemented in the field of teaching in schools but it is being gradually implemented in recent years: Establishing a department of Kurdish Language and Literature in Kurdistan province and teaching Kurdish in some schools of some Kurdish cities. Other universities of Kurdish cities are free to establish more departments of Kurdish Language and literature providing to have the needed academic staff. Kurdish press has enjoyed the article 15 more than other fields. Hundreds of Kurdish reviews, magazines, newspapers, periodicals have been published and are published in Kurdish or Kurdish-Persian. The Kurdistan province, for instance, has had or has more than 430 journals in Kurdish or bilingual. As Kelhuri/Feyli, Hewrami, Kurmanji and Sorani dialects are spoken by the Kurds of Iran, but they are not proportionately used in the press nor media. The journals in Feyli/Kelhuri, Hewrami and Kurmanji are very limited while most of them are in Sorani Kurdish. This means Sorani Kurds are much more active than other ones in Iran while their population is not more than others. This participation is more prominent in 24-hour Sahar Kurdish-language TV of Iran where 22 hours are broadcast in Sorani, 2 hours in Kurmanji and other dialects are absent. It is worth noting that there are six provincial TV channels fully or partially broadcasting in Kurdish dialects. Tehran Kurdish radio (Sorani and Kurmanji) and seven provincial radio stations are available for the Kurdish listeners, too. This is while Sorani Kurdish is recognized as an official language by the Bureau of Official Translation of Iranian Judiciary. This means the Sorani Kurds in Iran are more active than other ones, the high rate of Sorani Kurdish students in Iranian universities is a proof, too. This is while the linguistic policy of Iran is the same for all.

Conclusion

As spoken by millions of people in Iran, Kurdish is officially recognized as a language not a ‘’local dialect’’ of Persian in Iran, while Sorani Kurdish is more widespread than other ones. Despite their substantial population in Iran, the Kurmanjophone Kurds are not active linguistically and the Kurmanji families in Khorasan provinces are not very much interested in speaking Kurdish with their children while speaking Kurdish (all dialects) in the western part is considered as a prestige. By fully implementation of the article 15 of the Constitution, the state could take more effective steps in paving the way for development of Kurdish language, but the Kurds themselves also should do more. While the Kurdish needs to be more developed, the Kurdish intellectuals, specially, the Kurmanjophones are less interested in writing in their mother tongue.


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