Iranian Authorities Close Down Kurdish Language School

By RUDAW – 17.9.2013 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iranian authorities have shut down a Kurdish language school in Ilam only a few weeks after allowing it to open, and local activists say it was because so many in the predominantly Kurdish city had shown an interest in learning their ethnic tongue.

“The people of Ilam were very receptive to this Kurdish language school and many women and university students attended its courses,” Kurdish activist Mosa Omedi told Rudaw.

“The authorities didn’t expect the courses to be so popular. That is why, when they saw the huge number of people attending, they did not let it continue anymore,” he added, saying the center was closed by the police.

Activists said that the school, which had been licensed by authorities to teach the Sorani dialect spoken mainly by the Kurds of Iran, had enrolled students in large numbers, in a city where most of the 200,000 residents are Shiite Kurds.

The Iranian constitution designates Farsi as the country’s official language, but also entitles other ethnic groups the right to learn their own languages.  However, since the 1979 Islamic revolution ethnic groups have been officially encouraged to assimilate into the mainstream, and the country’s seven million Kurds have not had the liberty to freely practice their own language and culture. Activists in Ilam say Tehran fears that Kurdish language schools would revive a sense of nationalism among the Kurds, who complain that they live in some of the country’s poorest and most neglected provinces. “The Kurds of Ilam have felt a stronger sense of their identity and nationalism in recent years and the Iranian authorities do not want that,” Omedi said. Omedi criticized Iran’s new President Hassan Rowhani, who rode to victory on promises of granting greater rights to Iran’s ethnic groups, among them the Kurds who threw their support behind him in the June elections.