On Kurdish Periodicals

I suppose that my first post should be a form of welcome, but I feel that getting down to business is perhaps a bit more in order. I’m taking this opportunity to share the work that an Intern that I had the great pleasure of working with, Shkow Sharif, put together regarding a mid-20th century journal of Kurdish Literature and Studies. Nûserî Kurd was produced during the heady 1960s and 70s, when minority cultural production underwent a mini-renaissance in Iraq. Although a member of the Arab nationalist block, Iraq’s government permitted and fostered, to a certain degree, the development of publishing industries and academic pursuits in Kurdish and Swadaya, or neo-Aramaic.

Nûserî Kurd was the product of this opening. Produced by the Union of Kurdish Writers, it allowed for the documentation and dissemination of contemporary Kurdish poetry and prose. It mirrored, to a large degree, the flowering of academic journals in the language – published by the University of Baghdad’s Kurdish Literature College – that sought to bring Kurdish into the country’s broader scholastic arena.

All of this came to an abrupt end during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Material constraints and the state’s reliance on a more stringent form of Arab nationalism greatly reduced the standing of Kurdish publishing in the government’s eyes. It was not until the creation of a separate Kurdish entity in the north of the country in the 1990s that a publishing industry in Sorani Kurdish began to rebuild, alienated to some degree from the milieu of Baghdad in the 1960s and 70s.

The Kurdistan Region rapidly grew into a Kurdish-language publishing powerhouse after 2000. Numerous enterprises helped put out periodicals and monographs in the language for consumption across the region. Kurdish continued to face severe restrictions in Turkey during this period. In 2013, however, the situation changed and a relaxation of rules about publication in languages other than Turkish allowed for yet another blossoming – this time of publications in Kurmanji and the related language of Zazaki.

Today, periodicals are a dynamic, core component of Kurdish cultural production across the region. A visit to a bookshop in Amed/Diyarbakır easily reveals dozens of titles in Kurdish, Zazaki and Turkish. Some of these function, much as Nûserî Kurd did in its time, as a vehicle for bringing contemporary prose and poetry to Kurmanji and Zazaki readers.

The fate of Kurdish publishing is forever a sensitive one, dependent as it is on the whims of national governments that have not always been keen on publishing in languages other than their official ones. Nonetheless, these periodicals show the great resilience and hunger of the audience at hand, and the sheer excitement with which the printed word is met.

Various Kurdish periodical publications can be found at the British Library. A listing of those available, along with shelf marks, can be found below. I have also included Shkow Sharif’s work on creating a comprehensive list of titles and subjects included in Nûserî Kurd issues held at the Library.

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