3 min read  | Culture & Society, Interviews

Syrian Kurds announce program to change academic curriculum to Kurdish


September 25, 2014

September 25, 2014

Kurdish forces in the besieged area of Ain al-Arab near the Turkish border are barely holding out against a potent Islamic State attack, while well over 100,000 Syrians – the majority ethnic Kurds – have already fled into Turkey since last Thursday alone.  

Prior to the escalation of last week’s attack, Ain al-Arab – also known as Kobani in Kurdish – was one of three major Kurdish areas in Syria, along with Afrin in northern Aleppo and northern Al-Hasakah province.

The PYD, the politically and militarily dominant Kurdish group in Syria, has been attempting to consolidate its control over the Kurdish areas in the country from its seat of power in Al-Hasakah. The group declared self-governance in late 2013, and shares joint control with the regime over the capital of Al-Hasakah.

Part of the PYD’s efforts to legitimize its rule involve distinguishing Kurdish culture and language from the rest of Arab-majority Syria.

Earlier this month, the PYD announced that in the areas under its control the academic curriculum for the new school year will officially be in the Kurdish language for the first time. As part of the new program, Arabic will be taught only one hour a week and under the label of ‘Foreign Language.’

Before this program, Kurds in Syria taught their children Kurdish in secret, Majd al-Obaidi, a spokesperson for the pro-opposition General Council for the Revolution in Al-Hasakah, told Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid.

“[The Kurds] have been waiting for the chance to implement this program.”

Q: When was the decision to change the academic curriculum to Kurdish issued?

The decision to change the curriculum to Kurdish is not necessarily new. It is an old practice especially in Kurdish areas, but they have been waiting for the chance to implement it. It may have been happening before secretly in Kurdish areas.

Kurds on borders Kurds change academic curriculum amidst uncertain future. Photo courtesy of @abuomer_alkurdy.

Q: Where will this curriculum be implemented?

It will be applied in the PYD-controlled areas in northern Syria: Ain al-Arab, Afrin and the areas in north Al-Hasakah province, such as the city Al-Qamishli.

Q: Are there a large amount of Arabs in those areas?

Yes, collectively half of the population is Arab. For example, Ras al-Ain [a city in northeast Al-Hasakah] has a population of 250,000 and only 15,000 are Kurdish. In Al-Qamishli, the population is almost 50/50 Arab and Kurdish.

Q: Is this law going to be implemented in regime-controlled areas?

I don’t think so. The regime has threatened to cut the salaries of state employees if they teach a curriculum that isn’t provided by the Ministry of Education.

Q: Is this curriculum going to be implemented at all grade levels?

The program will be implemented in stages, starting with first grade.  Next year, it will be implemented in second grade, and so on.

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