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Iranian University to Start Teaching Kurdish

In a groundbreaking attempt, Kurdish would be taught at Kurdistan University, west of Iran, for the very first time come the new academic year, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency reported on Wednesday.

It is decided that 30 eager students would be allowed to learn the historical language academically, announced Bahram Valadbeigi, head of the Kurdistan Institute.

He highlighted the similar roots of Kurdish and Persian languages, saying "Expanding local languages would definitely boost the official one."

The editor of the Kurdish weekly "Ashti" (reconciliation) also expressed his gratitude to authorities in Iranian Higher Education Ministry and hoped the language be taught in other universities as well.

In Iran, 90 percent of Kurds live in villages, the rest are nomadic. With a checkered history of acceptance and restriction of Kurdish in modern Iran, a thriving literature in Iran has been slow to develop. Since 1984 government policy has been open: Kurdish is permitted in schools in Kurdish areas; a stream of publications has begun to appear, and there are long-wave external broadcasts in Kurdish as well as regional broadcasts on medium-wave radio in Kurdish and other minority languages.

Kurdish, as a term, is often used to refer to two separate but closely related language variants: Kurmanji (or Northern Kurdish) and Kurdi (Southern Kurdish). Kurdi (sometimes Sorani) is spoken in Iraq (2.8 million people), and in Iran (3 million people), especially in regions bordering on Iraq and in a small enclave in the northeastern province of Khorasan.

Kurmanji (sometimes Kurmanci) is mostly confined to Turkey (4 million) and northern Iraq (2.8 million). It is also spoken in Syria (500,000); Armenia (100,000) in regions bordering Iraq; and in Iran (100,000) south of Armenia and east of Iraq. There are unknown numbers of speakers in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Smaller communities speak the language (about 70 thousand) in Lebanon and in Europe, the US, and Canada.

Total speakers of Kurdi probably number about 6 million and Kurmanji speakers about 7 million, although some authorities cite a total of 20 million. Estimates of ethnic Kurds, not all of whom speak Kurdish today because of assimilation, also are high. Some people who regard themselves as Kurds speak Gurani and Zaza (or Dimli), closely related Indo-European languages of a non-Kurdish group.

... Payvand News - 8/11/04 ... --

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