Iraqi President Fuad Masum. Photo: Jacques Demarthon / AFP
In a letter from the Iraqi Oil Ministry to the Kirkuk-based North Gas Company two weeks ago, the firm was ordered to ban the use of Kurdish phrases in its official correspondence – to protect the Arabic language and to comply with rules and regulations. The letter sparked outrage.
Kurdish representatives in Baghdad have come under fire since the letter was exposed by media outlets. They are accused of failing to protect even the most basic of Kurdish rights enshrined in the Iraqi constitution, which states the Kurdish tongue, alongside Arabic, is an officially recognized state language.
The author of the letter, Oil Ministry General Inspector Hamdan Ojail Rashid, has allegedly apologized, according to one Iraqi MP, claiming he never intended to ban the Kurdish language. However, Rashid has not offered any clarification or annulled the earlier decree.
Rashid is not really the problem here. The essence of the problem is the growing mentality in state institutions in Baghdad and the silence of Kurds in the face of such outright constitutional violations.
The problem, it seems, is widespread. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has allegedly written to all of its ambassadors warning them never to include Kurdish phrases in official correspondence. The Iraqi Interior Ministry in Baghdad has reportedly done the same.
It is clearly detailed in the Iraqi constitution that Kurdish and Arabic are the official spoken languages across the state. Such an order begs a serious threat – a physical cleansing of the Kurdish nation.
In his notorious Obersalzberg Speech of August 22, 1939, when Adolf Hitler told his officers he had given the order “to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language,” he asked “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Here, Hitler used the world’s failure to challenge the Ottoman murder of Armenians to justify his slaughter of Poles. Where could the failure to challenge the cultural cleansing of the Kurdish language lead?
Whose fault is it if Kurds’ most basic constitutional rights can be so easily trampled? I am blaming the guardian of the Iraqi constitution – President Fuad Masum.
Dear President, you carry responsibility for the constitution – yet in your presence, violations are being made to its articles. In addition, you are the representative of a nation, and now the cleansing of your nation is taking place. You have the power to stop this.
Dear President, do not forget the path that brought you here. You were a leading man of your nation’s struggle. Among the Iraqi Kurds, the number of people at your level would not exceed the fingers on one hand. In the past, you could have lived in the most fascinating countries and studied at the most prestigious universities. But you rejected such luxuries and chose to live among the rough rocks and the tough life of the mountains.
Dear President, do not forget your name as a Kurd will remain in the pages of history forever. You were the first ever Kurdistan Region prime minister, the first ever Kurdish speaker of the Iraqi parliament, and the first Iraqi president after President Jalal Talabani. There are a few days left for you in this post as president and a few years in life. Do not let yourself die small.
Dear President, do you remember when Mam Jalal, in front of the leaders of 190 countries at the UN, gave a speech in Kurdish? In this way, he told the world that Iraq is a country of Kurds and Arabs as partners. He defended the Kurdish constitutional rights in this way. The Kurdish language is a sign of our existence. Sometimes, simply speaking it is enough to defend Kurdishness.
Dear President, do you know that in 1991, when the Kurdistan uprising reached Kirkuk, Saddam Hussein met with tribal leaders and figures of Mosul with Mir Tahsin Saed Beg – spiritual leader of the Yezidis – in attendance?
Saddam was trying to boost the morale of the failing army and embolden Arabs against Kurds, telling them “what is happening is an insurgency and at the hand of Arabs’ enemies. We, all who sit here as Arabs, must shoulder the responsibility and protect the dignity of Arabs. We must reclaim areas the Kurdish rebels have taken from us.”
Saddam turned to Mir Tahsin Beg, telling him the Yezidis are Arabs too. Tahsim Beg replied in Kurdish: “I do not know Arabic and I am calling for a translator to translate my speech to Arabic.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.