Kurdish is one of the major immigrant languages when it comes to a number of speakers in the Nordic Countries. Like many other immigrant groups, Kurdish immigrants have settled in the Nordic countries—many due political or security reasons, some seeking work. Due to severe restriction on the Kurdish language and culture in Kurdistan – especially in Turkey and Iran, but previously also in Iraq and Syria – many Kurds have fled Europe, including the Nordic countries, to be able to preserve the Kurdish identity, e.g. to be able to freely use their native language. This has been especially important for Kurdish writers. Publishing in Kurdish was illegal altogether in Turkey up until the 1990’s. Although not totally prohibited in Iran, Iraq or Syria, there too have been – and mostly continue to be – severe restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language in the public domain, for example in education, commerce and broadcasting.
Although Kurds are a relatively new minority group in the Nordic countries, Kurdish literature has already a history of several decades of activities in the Nordic countries…
An active era for the Kurdish literature in the Nordic countries began in the 1980’s with poets like Cegerxwîn, novelists like Mehmed Uzun and authors of children books like Mehmed Emîn Bozarslan, beginning to publish their works in Sweden. In the 1990’s, when Kurdish language and literature was still under severe restriction and pressure in Kurdistan, a dozen or so Kurdish literary and cultural journals where published in Sweden, some more and some less regularly. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different Kurdish book titles where published mainly in Sweden, but to a lesser degree also in Denmark and Norway. Kurdish writers have also found a writers’ union in Sweden. There is also a Kurdish library for gathering and providing materials in Kurdish and on the Kurds in other languages.
Although Kurds are a relatively new minority group in the Nordic countries, Kurdish literature has already a history of several decades of activities in the Nordic countries with hundreds of books and dozens of journals published as well as at least one library and one writers’ union found. But on the other hand, the publication in Kurdish has plummeted in the Nordic countries over the past years. Currently no Kurdish journal is published on a regular basis in the Nordic countries, the majority of the publishing houses have been closed down and even the only Kurdish library is under threat of closing down.
Recommendations for improvements
Recently a report on the conditions of the Kurdish literature in the Nordic countries was commissioned by the Culture for All Service. The report introduces several recommendations for improvement in order for the Kurdish literature and literatures in other immigrant or other non-dominant immigrant languages to thrive and survive:
Public libraries and schools with Kurdish-speaking pupils or students should acquire more Kurdish books and other material. Literature reading events should be organized for Kurdish and other immigrant authors and translators to read out their books for library visitors.
Kurdish and other immigrant writers should receive grants or other financial support for writing literature and publishing it. Not all literary works have to be published in the form of printed books, but possibly also as portals, blogs, vlogs or social media groups or platforms centering on producing or distributing literature.
A common virtual platform should be created and maintained for immigrant writers.
Kurdish and many other non-dominant language teachers and students in the Nordic countries are in desperate need of proper digital material to be used in schools, colleges and universities for studying the language. Production of the material could be undertaken as a project for instance under a national board of education.
Courses introducing creative writing should be held especially targeting adolescents but also adults. Many Kurds, and other immigrants, having left their country of origin and home, as well as family and friends, and forced to live in exile, would benefit from the ability to express their sufferings and other experiences in the form of literature. Participants should be encouraged to write in their native language or in the main language of the country of residence or possibly in both.
Current translation of the Nordic literature into Kurdish and other immigrant languages is largely ad hoc with no overall plan or objective. A program or project should be prepared to plan what major literary works should be translated from the official or dominant Nordic languages into Kurdish and other non-dominant languages and what literary works should be translated from these languages into the Nordic languages.
A common virtual platform should be created and maintained for immigrant writers. The platform should include sections for writing in immigrant languages as well as sections introducing immigrant writers and excerpts of their literary works translated in the official or dominant language of the country of their residence.
Membership in the national writers’ union of the Nordic countries should be made possible also for writers of minority and immigrant languages residing in the country. Events introducing majority and minority/immigrant writers to each others should be held and/or supported.
Husein Muhammed (born in 1980 in Iraqi Kurdistan) is a Kurdish lawyer, writer and translator living in Finland since 1994.