Kurdish writer pens Zazaki children’s book in bid to save language

A Kurdish writer in Istanbul has published 20 short stories in the Zazaki and Kurmanji dialects of Kurdish, in a bid to save the former from extinction, Iraqi Kurdish news outlet Rudaw reported on Tuesday. 

“The Kurdish language is under great threat in northern Kurdistan,” writer Kerem Tekoglu told the outlet, referring to Kurdish-majority areas in southeast Turkey. 

“There are plenty of people like me who protect the Kurmanji dialect but unfortunately the Zazaki dialect is almost dead … If we do not act, the Zazaki dialect will no longer be spoken in northern Kurdistan,” he said. 

Kurds in Turkey, who make up more than 15 million of Turkey’s population, have been deprived of their mother tongue in public settings. Their children are only taught Turkish with optional and non-binding Kurdish lessons in some schools, Rudaw said.

The use of Kurdish in public was banned by the military administration following the 1980 coup in Turkey, and it was decriminalised in 1991. 

Turkey saw an increase in Kurdish language courses during the Kurdish opening launched in 2009, but they are now struggling to attract students since Ankara reversed its stance and began cracking down on the Kurdish movement.

Now Tekoglu is looking to fight the battle facing the Kurdish language, with "Ciroken Gule" (Gule’s Stories), in which young readers are introduced to Kurdish historical figures through the main character, Gule. Designed for children aged up to nine, the series also teaches children the Kurdish lifestyle and how to respect their elders, according to Tekoglu, who has published 2,500 copies of his new collection. Each page is written in Kurmanji, followed by the same text in Zazaki. 

The publication of the books comes as Kurds in Turkey petition to make Kurdish an official language in Turkey.

The campaign has been supported by several Kurdish academics, politicians and other public figures in addition to the support on social media platforms through several hash tags like #JiyanBiKurdiXweshe (“Life is good with Kurdish”) and #JiBoKurdîÎmzeDikim (“I sign for the Kurdish language.”)