Kurdish literature opens to world from Diyarbakır

kurdish-literature-open-to-world-from-diyarbakir-2011-04-05_l1.jpgWork has started on the formation of Kurdish PEN. Final decisions will be made in September in Belgrade. The Diyarbakır-based group has been supported by Turkish PEN and Turkey’s master writer Yaşar Kemal. Kurdish PEN will also open its doors to Armenian and Syriac literature

Initiations have started for a new Kurdish branch of the world’s leading writers’ union, International PEN. The decisions will be made during the International PEN General Assembly held in September in Belgrade.

Turkey’s renowned writer Yaşar Kemal, who has been a candidate for the Nobel Prize many times, and Turkish PEN support the Kurdish PEN, which is to be formed in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. The London-based international organization, which was established in 1921, has 145 branches in 102 countries. The planned Kurdish PEN will support not only Kurdish literature but also Armenian and Syriac literature.

Writer Şeyhmus Diken, speaking to Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review on behalf of the Kurdish PEN Initiative Committee, said, “Since the intellectual movements of Kurds have been developed, a PEN organization is necessary.”

He said that the main purpose of Kurdish PEN would be Kurdish language. “Even though our main body will be Kurdish, the doors will be open to other languages that exist in the Mesopotamian region. In a cultural and intellectual sense, our ancestors are not only Kurds. Armenians and Syriacs all around the world see themselves as members of the same region as their Kurdish citizens. This is why it would have been unfair to limit the organization to Kurdish writers only.”

Most Kurdish writers and poets in Turkey write their works in Turkish. This is why discussions of whether these writers belong to Turkish literature or Kurdish literature come up from time to time. “It is true that Kurdish writers writing in Turkish are being categorized, but I don’t approve of this view,” said Diken. “The Republican regime neglected a huge public with their language, identity, history and culture in the 1920s. The politics of denial and refusal have been implemented. Many Kurdish intellectuals have learned Turkish instead of their native language and written in this language,” he said, adding that he had written his works in Turkish, too.

“But whatever the language is, it is enough for a writer to define himself as a Kurd. Our long-term wish is that Kurdish writers create literature in their mother tongue, in Kurdish.”

Support from Turkish PEN

Diken believes Kurdish literature will have a very bright future. He said that Kurdish youth gave importance to speaking and writing in their own language. The biggest goal of Kurdish PEN will be to promote Kurdish literature to the world. “We will work for the formation of an equal relation between cultures and peoples by translating respected works of traditional and modern Kurdish literature into various languages,” he said.

Diken said that they were very pleased that Turkish PEN also supported their efforts. He said that writer Kemal’s support of Kurdish PEN was also very important, noting that he was one of the former presidents of Turkish PEN.

“It is a big honor for us that Kemal support Kurdish PEN as a volunteer and put his name on top of the list. Even though he has been a candidate for the Nobel Prize many times, he has not won it. He is a contemporary story writer, an author. It is the shame the Nobel committee has not given him this prize. It is not my business to discuss this shame. He has already received the Nobel Prize thousands of times over in the eyes of real literary people.”

Why Diyarbakır?

When asked why Diyarbakır was chosen for the center of Kurdish PEN, Diken said the city was a junction point. “It has a heritage of 11,000 years and the traces of four nations. Forming the Kurdish PEN in such an important city will make a great contribution to world culture.”

PEN is an international organization that does not permit hate-based discourses and tries to focus on the language of peace rather than violence