‘Maybe we’ll get into trouble for studying here’

Müjde is twenty years old, and she is finally learning her mother tongue. Even though she has been speaking Kurmanci ever since she was a little girl, only now is she learning the grammar, the proper words, and the stories of her native language. ‘Do you know that since I’ve been studying here, I have found out that almost half of the words that I thought were Kurmanci were actually Turkish?’

Müjde, leaning against the wall of Mardin Artuklu University

I am talking with Müjde in a tea garden opposite the Artuklu University in Mardin. The university is a brand new building on the road from Diyarbakir. Go down the stairs inside and you will find class rooms with names like Ahmed Xani, Melaye Ciziri and other famous Kurdish poets and writers. Then you realize that you are actually in a state university here, and that in these class rooms junior and senior students are learning the Kurdish languages Kurmanci, Sorani and Zazaki. Unimaginable some years ago.

Still it’s no reason for the state to be proud of itself, says Müjde, who is in the very first group of junior students of ‘Living languages’, as the faculty is officially called. ‘I think it is my natural right to learn my own language, and the state has always denied that to Kurds. So they are now just giving us our natural right.’

Contribute to my people

She is very proud to be studying her mother tongue and to be in the very first group of junior students. Müjde: ‘I wanted to study law, but I couldn’t get enough points for law school in the university entrance exam. Then I looked into the list of other subjects, and there I saw it: Kurmanci. I immediately enrolled. I didn’t want to do a course that would make me contribute to the state, I wanted to study something with which I can contribute to my people. So this language course is perfect. I will probably be an academic, researching my own language and the its history.’

To my surprise though, Müjde says she is not only proud, but worried too. ‘The point is, the government allows this faculty to operate now, but there are no guarantees for the Kurdish language in any law of this country. What we need is constitutional rights. What if the government changes its mind, or a future government has other ideas and abolishes this right once again?’ That would be a tragedy, she says. Not only for the faculty, Müjde believes: ‘Who knows, maybe one day we will get into trouble because we are studying here now’.

To avoid any trouble and to set an example for future students, the juniors agreed at the beginning of the academic year that they will not join any demonstrations or public celebrations while at university. Müjde: ‘The Kurdish struggle made it possible for us to study here now, but we agreed not to demonstrate any more or shout slogans. We are contributing to our people now with our pens, with our studies. We take that very seriously, and we really hope it will not be taken away from us.’

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