21 February is International Mother Language Day, a day that promotes ‘preservation and protection of all languages used by people of the world’. While an estimated 50 million people in the world speak different variations of Kurdish, these languages are often oppressed or even denied in the countries where they are spoken.

In 2016, the Kurdish Institute finished an Erasmus+-project called “Ez mafê xwe dizanim”, which means “I Know my Rights” in Kurdish. The project was aimed at raising awareness of the universal right to education in the mother tongue among Kurdish youth in Turkey, and to provide a methodological framework which could benefit youth workers, both in the Kurdish regions and in various European countries.

The project focused on the case of Diyarbakir (Amed), which is considered the capital of the Kurdish region in Turkey. The over one million inhabitants of the city and the province exemplify the Anatolian ethnic and linguistic mosaic. The largest group are Kurds, but there are also significant Assyrian, Armenian, Turkish and Arab communities who make up the historical and social fabric of the region. According to a recent survey only 15% of the people in the Diyarbakir province consider Turkish their mother tongue. However, this multi-ethnic and multilingual reality is not reflected in Turkish state policy, as Turkish is the only official language and the only language allowed in public education. This strict monolingual policy reinforces the already severe socio-economic subordination of Kurdish people in the province.

The project ran from October 2014 to September 2016 and was carried out by the Kurdish Institute in Brussels (Belgium), the Kurdish Studies department at Jagiellonian University in Krakow (Poland), Pro Humanitate in Cologne (Germany) and Kurdî Der in Amed/Diyarbakır (Turkey). It resulted in the publication of a book, which includes information on the importance of education in the mother language, the situation of the Kurdish language in Turkey and recommendations for bettering this situation.

Please find the complete publication here. More information about International Mother Language Day and the situation of the Kurdish language can be found here.

For questions or additional information, please contact the Kurdish Institute via [email protected] or 02 230 34 02.