Tehran, Iran (GVO) – Iran’s University of Kurdistan has opened a new department of Kurdish Language and Literature. Bakhtiar Sajjadi, the new chair of the department, announced last week that 40 students have been accepted to start their studies this October.
Sajjadi told Kurd Press that the department was created with the permission of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. The University of Kuridstan is the largest university in the province of Kurdistan, established in 1974.
This is the first time that an Iranian University offers Kurdish as a post-secondary level of study inside of Iran. Kurdish is one of many minority languages in Iran, alongside Turkmen, Baluch, and Azeri, that have vied for the freedom to speak, teach and publish in that language.
Iran’s ethnic Kurds reside predominantly in northwestern Iran, close to the Iraqi and Turkish borders. Estimates suggest Iran has a population of around 6-7 million ethnic Kurds. Iran’s Kurds have had a history of contention with authorities who have often denied the community basic rights and freedoms.
The moderate President Hassan Rouhani came into office with the promise to instate the language of minorities in schools. Iran has typically promoted a policy of assimilation in Iran’s education system. Previous requests to set up formal post-secondary education in Kurdish language and literature by Kurdish authorities had been rejected. This had been a matter of dispute, according to BBC Persian, as opponents argue that education in minority languages endangers national identity.
Rouhani’s associated Facebook page announced the news of the Kurdish Language and Literature department launch on July 24.
Social media responses to Rouhani’s announcement in the program ranged from critical to celebratory. Many Iranians on the president’s page criticized the government for not doing the same for Turkish language rights, while some users noted the government had done little to improve unemployment for Kurdish Iranians. Others, however, praised the president for delivering on campaign promises.