Look everywhere but the backyard .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - The below ’classified ad’ is entirely imaginary, but its elements are not. These are the realities many experts of the Kurdish language point to in the wake of an argument by the head of the university watchdog that there are too few experts in Kurdish literature in Turkey

Finding experts in Kurdish language and literature will not be difficult for Turkey, where many amateurs have passionately enriched their knowledge of their mother tongue and are eager to contribute to creating Kurdish departments in universities.

While many Kurdish language experts in Turkey do not have academic titles, they have battled bans and peer pressure to develop their knowledge of their mother tongue, refuting the comments made by Higher Education Board, or YÖK, President Yusuf Ziya Özcan who said on Sunday Turkey had too few experts in Kurdish language and literature.

"As there is no education in Kurdish, there is no opportunity in Turkey to have a registered academic career in Kurdish. Only those people studying other fields can transfer their knowledge if they are competent in Kurdish," said Sami Tan, the head of Istanbul Kurdish Institute, which was founded in 1992.
The institute has undertaken serious work on the Kurdish language and culture, such as preparing dictionaries and grammar books. "Those friends who study Kurdish, they are self-educated and Turkey has great potential in this regard. If the state wants to benefit, then it can," Tan said.

While experts were not against the idea of having Kurdish academics coming from abroad, they had concerns relating to the need to understand the political and linguistic intricacies of Turkey’s Kurdish culture and population.

"Turkey has had people and institutions that taught Kurdish for many years now. The statements of Özcan are about employing academics who think the way he does. The general aim is to prevent the involvement of the Kurdish political movement in this process," said Bülent Ulus, the news editor of the Kurdish language culture journal Tiroj.

Linguist Necmiye Alpay also said she was concerned about the hesitation of the state to recourse to existing potential about the issue for political reasons.

"I cannot understand why they do not ask for help from the Istanbul Kurdish Institute. If this is because they do not like its political stance, politics should not be involved in issues of language," she said.

Özcan in his statement said YÖK could benefit from the Kurdish Institute in Paris and universities in northern Iraq.

The Istanbul Kurdish Institute should not be excluded from that process, according to Kurdish author Muhsin Kızılkaya.

However, Kızılkaya also said the number of people who are equipped to teach Kurdish is very few. The situation is not like the one abroad, he said, pointing out well-established Kurdish studies departments in universities like Sorbonne in France and Uppsala in Sweden. It is natural to benefit from experts abroad who have studied where Kurdish studies is so well developed, especially in places where the Kurdish diaspora lives, mostly in Sweden and in former Soviet countries and Armenia, Turkish studies expert Mehmet Bayrak said.

However, it would be more correct to benefit from domestic potential first and then look abroad, said Bayrak, whose first book, which was about Kurdish folk music, was banned. Using this internal potential shows the sincerity of the state, the government and YÖK on the issue, Bayrak said.

Tan said it would be more correct to solve this problem by depending on internal sources, adding that in the last three years more than 300 books in Kurdish were published.

"When the official Kurdish language courses opened, we trained teachers who would teach Kurdish in these courses. My books on Kurdish grammar are used in these classes," said Tan. However, Tan himself had to pass the official test of the courses to document that he is in command of Kurdish. "The debates should include Kurds," he said, although he is regarding all these latest debates as positive developments.

Dialect matters
Another issue about foreign support for the Kurdish language is differences about dialects.

Some experts hesitate about any academic support from northern Iraqi universities. "The education language in northern Iraq is in the Sorani dialect and they use the Arabic alphabet. However Kurds in Turkey use the Kurmanji and Zazaki dialects," said Tan.

Alpay also highlighted that the use of Sorani would not be helpful for Turkey. However, according to Kızılkaya the dialect difference would not matter that much. "Academics in northern Iraq are well in command of both Sorani and Kurmanji dialects," he said. "Academics in Selahattin University are also working on uniting the two dialects to make a single one."

Meanwhile, Joyce Blau from the Kurdish Institute of Paris said there had been no official contact with the Turkish government yet for any kind of support they could offer.

However, Blau said the institute would be very happy to put all their resources at the disposal of the government for university-level Kurdish programs.
* Large group of native Kurdish speakers seeking work in a forward-thinking organization
* Experienced in both oral traditions and extensive written literature
* Familiar with Kurmanji and Zazaki dialects
* Part-time or full-time positions negotiable, salary requirements flexible
* Available to work immediately in Istanbul and other Turkish cities
CONTACT : Look out the window