Conferences : World Congress of KURDISH STUDIES : Presentation


Section PRESSE
World Congress of

Irbil, 6-9 September 2006

Organized by the Kurdish Institute of Paris in partnership with
Salahadin University (Irbil) and with the support of the
Kurdistan Regional Government and of the
French Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Introductory Speech

Mr. Minister,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Dear Friends

In the name of the Paris Kurdish Institute I warmly welcome you to this First World Congress of Kurdish Studies.

This event is both important and highly symbolic. Important because, for the first time, the majority of those research workers and academics throughout the world who have devoted their work to knowledge of the Kurdish people, its history, its culture, its language and its social and political situation, are all meeting here together. And this highly symbolic event is taking place at Irbil, in the capital of a Kurdistan that is gradually recovering from the tragedies of its past and is striving, peaceably and democratically, to reconstruct.

Those taking part come from a dozen countries - from Europe, the United States, as well as Iran and Turkey. In choosing to specialise in Kurdish Studies, they have shown intellectual curiosity, an open mind but also considerable civic courage. In a world where the States that carved up Kurdistan between them have often sought to deny the very existence of the Kurdish people, the fact of being interested in the Kurds, of writing about the Kurds, has long resulted in refusal of visas, interdiction of access to archives or field work and to every kind of politico-administrative harassment for Western academics - and the end of their careers, to trial or imprisonment for their colleagues in Turkey.

The Turkish sociologist Ismail Besikçi, who was obliged to spend a dozen years of his life in jail because of his academic studies of Kurdish society, is symbolic of this. The Kurdish people exists for all that, Besikçi incessantly kept repeating to his Turkish inquisitors, who accused him of attacking national unity. His struggle, carried on in the name of the search for truth and intellectual integrity, is not unlike that of his illustrious predecessor, Galileo, who, in his time, defied other taboos and generally accepted ideas by daring to say that the earth turned.

This intellectual courage is all the more rare and outstanding in so far as many Western academics, anxious to sweeten their relations with this or that Near Eastern State have chosen to ignore the existence and fate of its Kurdish population - some even going so far as to act as propagandists for the dominant nationalist ideologies, such as Kemalism or Baathism.

By choosing to interest yourselves in the Kurds, to make them known, to denounce the official State lies regarding them, you have, ladies and gentlemen, been a credit to the humanist traditions of science in a difficult context.

I would like, therefore, on the occasion of this congress, pay tribute to your courage and to express all our gratitude to you.

I would also like to pay tribute to those of our colleagues who have been unable to join us here today. Some because of an overloaded academic timetable, like Professors Martin Bruinessen and Michiel Leizenberg of the Netherlands, Amin Hassanpour and Shahranzad Mojab of Canada, Mrs. Christine Allison of Paris and Dr. Edmond Ghareeb in Washington, Robert Olson, Lokman Meho, of the United States. Others for reasons of health like Professors Lazarev, Gastratian, Ordikhané, Shakirê Miho of Russia, Kamal Mazhar Ahmed in Baghdad and others because of a variety of practical obstacles like Ismail Besikçi, deprived of his passport in Turkey, Mehmet Emin Bozarslan in Sweden and Celilê Celîl in Austria.

You all know their outstanding contributions to Kurdish Studies and we acknowledge them and hope that they will take part in a future Symposium or Congress.

The objectives of our Congress are both simple and ambitious. It is to make an inventory of the various areas of Kurdish Studies, to discuss the perspectives and draw up concrete proposals for the future. The Congress is also an opportunity for those taking part to know one another, to exchange ideas on the projects under way, to form working or cooperative relations between Kurdish and Western research workers. And, last but not least, many of our Western friends will at last have the opportunity of seeing Iraqi Kurdistan and of meeting its leaders.

The papers presented here today will be broadcast on the same day on the Kurdish Institute's Internet site ( or for the benefit of a wider public. They will later be published in Kurdish so as to benefit as wide an audience as possible, particularly amongst students.

I am convinced that these exchanges will be rich and fruitful and that they will give a new and powerful impetus to the development of Kurdish Studies; arouse vocations among young people. Over two centuries after its birth in Italy, with the Grammatica e Vocabolario della Lingua Kurda, published in 1787 by Father Maurizio Garzoni, after the considerable work done by the Russian School in the 19th and 20th Centuries, continued by the French School of the Bedir Khan brothers, of Roget Lescot, of Pierre Rondot and of Thomas Bois, to only mention the most your most illustrious predecessors, Kurdish Studies is still a young discipline. There remain many areas to be explored, to be covered. Over the last 20 years, the Kurdish Institute has devoted considerable efforts in training research workers in these areas, so vital for the future of the Kurdish nation.

The Kurdish Institute has organized numerous colloquia and conferences on the Kurdish language and on various aspects of Kurdish society. It has published two scholarly journals, Studia Kurdica and Etudes Kurdes, and numerous monographs and magazines.

Today, we have the historic chance of having a Kurdish State, even though federated and not independent, of having universities, of having then means of controlling our own fate on a part of the Kurdish lands. The Kurdish Government seems fully conscious of the importance of investing in education, in training, in intelligence by increasing the number of schools and universities.

We are convinced that it will do its best to encourage the development of Kurdish Studies in Europe and the United States. The holding of this Congress in Irbil today, with the government's support, is a significant token of its interest. An interest show by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani himself, who has given one of his Ministers, Dr. Mohammed Ihsan, the responsibility of personally dealing with the organisation of this Congress in liaison with the President of Salahadin University, Dr. Mohammed Khosnaw.

I want to express to them all my gratitude for the welcome and hospitality they have provided.

I also thank the Kurdish academics of Suleimaniyah, Irbil and Dohuk for their participation in these Kurdish Studies days. We are going to learn from them and be enriched by their contributions.

I wish every success to our Congress and give the floor to Dr. Mohammed Khosnaw, President of Salahadin University.