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Dohuk: The Protector of My Dialect


Kurdish Herald Vol. 1 Issue 5, September 2009 - by Sibel Akman


Until recently, I never needed a passport – while I had travelled some fairly significant distances in Turkey, not once had I crossed its borders. However, I was recently invited by the Union of Kurdish Writers, Dohuk branch to attend their 38th year anniversary and so this all changed. In order to attend, I would be required to make a trip across the border from Mus, Turkey to Dohuk, Iraq. In another world, such a trip might not have required a passport. But borders, like so much else, tend to take on lives of their own after decades of existence.

Dohuk is a dream city of Kurdistan, or, more specifically, the dream city of Kurmanci-Kurdistan. It carries and raises the flashing flag of the language, the most fundamental particle of the Kurdish national identity. The city is surrounded by mountains on all four sides, making it seem like a small valley in the vast world of Kurmanci-speaking Kurdistan. It is the smallest of the three provinces that make up the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. The other two provinces, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah speak Sorani, the dialect used most commonly in official discourse in the region. However, Dohuk is different. Armed with the realization that the two dialects, both with their own rich histories, cannot be integrated, the city’s intellectual elite work tirelessly to ensure that Kurmanci continues to be used.


Union of Kurdish Writers, Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan


The Dohuk Writers Union is currently headed by Mr. Hassan Slevani, himself a poet and a novelist who heads the organization that is responsible for publishing hundreds of literary works - all in Kurmanci - over the past few years. His is an institution whose work benefits so many millions of Kurds far beyond the borders of this small town; this wonderful town called Dohuk.


As a young Kurdish poet living in Turkey, the union’s invitation was a most welcome surprise and an amazing opportunity; not only was I given a chance to recite my humble poems before an audience of contemporary literary giants such as Badirkhan Sindi, Muhsin Quchan, Mu’ayad Tayib, and Arif Hito, I also saw with my own eyes how the Kurmanci dialect is being protected and advanced by this city’s beautiful people.


When I returned to Turkey, my suitcase was full of extremely precious books given to me by the union – books that one, unfortunately, cannot obtain beyond the tiny borders of Dohuk. Now,when I look at my passport I can smell the dusty flowers of this colorful, vibrant city and imagine poems and literature pouring down from the valley of Dohuk.



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