Kirkuk reinstates Kurdish alphabet following outcry
The educational authorities in Kirkuk province have backtracked on a contentious decision to replace the Kurdish alphabet with Arabic in official school records after facing substantial pressure from Kurdish lawmakers. The initial directive, which mandated the use of the Arabic alphabet for recording students' names, was met with fierce opposition from the Kurdish community, which saw it as an attack on their language and identity.
As reported by Rudaw, Sabah Habib, a member of the Iraqi parliament's education committee, was one of the vocal critics of the decision. He argued that the directive violated the rights of Kurds, as Kurdish is one of the official languages of Iraq. Habib pointed out that the order, which came from the primary screening center in Kirkuk's education directorate following instructions from Baghdad, was illegal and impractical, given that many clerks in Baghdad were unfamiliar with the Kurdish keyboard.
In response to the backlash, the education directorate issued a statement reversing its previous decision, ensuring that the Kurdish alphabet would continue documenting students' names. This move has been seen as a victory for Kurdish rights in a province where the Kurdish language was once banned under the Baathist regime as part of a campaign to Arabize the oil-rich city. With the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Kurdish education was reinstated, and today, the language is taught in hundreds of schools across Kirkuk.
The controversy over using the Kurdish alphabet in schools is emblematic of broader tensions surrounding the status of disputed territories between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi federal government. Fahmi Burhan, head of the Kurdistan Region's board for disputed territories, expressed concern that the Kurdish identity of areas such as Khanaqin, Mandali, and Saadiya is under threat due to neglect and security issues. Burhan highlighted the ongoing challenges faced by Kurds in these areas, from unresolved land disputes to the dilution of their cultural presence.
Despite the Iraqi constitution's provisions for the protection of minority languages and the resolution of territorial disputes under Article 140, implementing these measures has been slow and often inadequate. The Kurdish official emphasized the discrepancy between government decrees and actual practice on the ground, calling for more decisive action to address the multifaceted issues encountered by Kurds in the disputed territories.