The Iraqi flag replaced the Kurdistan one on Kirkuk’s Peshmerga statue, guarding over the northern gate to the city, when control of the city was taken over by Iraqi forces in October. Photo: Hiwa Hussamadin/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Hundreds of Kurdish studies teachers have left Kirkuk and other disputed areas following the events of October 16, putting education in their field at risk.
Since Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi militias took control of the disputed areas, some 600 Kurdish studies teachers have left Kirkuk and two schools were closed. All 50 Kurdish schools in Tuz Khurmatu district, where some 800 students had studied, have been closed. Twenty teachers left Shingal and four schools in the district have been closed. Eleven teachers have left Khanaqin.
Some of the schools in Kirkuk were looted and Iraqi forces are now staying in others, Sherzad Rashid, director of Kurdish studies in Kirkuk, told Rudaw.
“We have nearly 560 Kurdish schools. We used to have more than 100,000 students. I expect the number of students to decrease and Kurdish studies will decline,” Rashid explained.
The Iraqi government is also “planning to open new schools for Arabic to prevent Kurdish education from growing,” he claimed.
After the US-led invasion that ousted the Baathist regime in 2003, the KRG established inclusive studies administrative units in many of the disputed areas such as Kirkuk, Shingal, Mandali, Makhmour, Sheikhan, Dubiz, and Tuz Khurmatu, employing thousands. The Turkmen, Kurdish, and Arabic, and Assyrian languages are protected under KRG law.
The deputy secretary of the Kurdistan Teachers Union lamented the ongoing challenges for Kurdish education in the ethnically diverse disputed areas.
“It our legitimate right to study in our mother tongue, but unfortunately Kurdish education faces a big problem in disputed areas… following the October 16 events,” Ahmed Garmiyani told Rudaw on Wednesday.
The teachers still working in the disputed areas now under Iraqi control have struggled
to get Baghdad to pay their salaries.
When the Iraqi forces took control of the disputed areas after Kurdistan’s vote for independence, thousands of Kurds fled the ethnically diverse regions – Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu especially. Many from Tuz Khurmatu remain displaced because of ongoing security fears in the city.
The Kurdistan flag is no longer permitted to fly in the disputed areas, and national anniversaries or occasions like Kurdish Traditional Clothes Day have reportedly been banned.
Wednesday marks International Mother Language Day.