Created in February 1983, the Kurdish Institute is an independent, non-political, secular organisation, embracing Kurdish intellectuals and artists from different horizons as well as Western specialists on Kurdish Studies.
Its objectives are to maintain in the Kurdish community a knowledge of its language, its history and its cultural heritage, to contribute to the integration of Kurdish immigrants to Europe into their host societies and to make the Kurds, their culture, their country and their present situation known to the general public.
After ten years of activity in the form of a non-profit association (in accordance with the law of 1901), it became a Foundation of recognised public benefit by a decree signed by the French Prime Minister on March 2nd 1993, (published in the Journal Officiel of 4 March 1993).
It is run by a 15 strong Board of Directors, two of which are representatives of the French Ministries of Culture and of the Interior. This Board is renewed every three years. It elects from amongst its own members a President, two Vice-Presidents, a Treasurer and a Secretary, who, together, form the Institute's Executive Committee.
The present Board was elected in June 1996. Its President is Dr. Kendal Nezan, a nuclear physicist, (France); its Vice-Presidents are Dr. Abbas Vali, Professor of Political Science at Swansea University, (Great Britain) and Dr. Fuad Hussein, lecturer at Amsterdam University, (Netherlands). The Treasurer is Dr. Joyce Blau, Professor of Kurdish Language and Civilisation at INALCO (National Institute for Eastern Languages and Civilisations), (France); while Kamuran F. Çeçen, lawyer, is Secretary. The Board also includes seven members other Kurdish leading figures from Germany, Sweden, Great Britain and the United States and, to a considerable extent, reflects the diversity of the Kurdish Diaspora in the West, where about a million Kurds are settled.
To ensure democracy, pluralism and the widest possible participation of intellectuals, writers, research workers and artists of the Kurdish Diaspora in its work, the Kurdish Institute has set up a Cultural and Scientific Council (CCS) consisting of five sections: Social and Cultural Studies, Language and Literature, Arts, Information and Human Rights and Stimulation of Socio-Cultural Activities.
These sections cover the areas of activity covered by the Institute's Rules and Objectives. The CCS also forms the Institute's electoral body. Every three years, its members elect, by secret ballot, the members of the Institute's Board of Directors.
The Kurdish Institute enjoys the support of many Western intellectuals who sponsor its activities. This Sponsorship Committee includes, amongst others:
Simone de Beauvoir , writer; Maurice Bejart, choreographer; Elena Bonner, wife of A. Sakharov; Sean McBride , Nobel Peace Prize Winner; Gérard Chaliand, writer and expert on Third World affairs, Associate Professor of Harvard University and of the ENA (National School of Public Administration) (Paris); Bernard Dorin, French Ambassador and member of the State Council; Miguel Angel Estrella, Argentinean musician; Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Health, founder of Médecins sans Frontières and Honorary President of Médecins du Monde; Jean Lacouture, writer and journalist; Claude Lanzmann, writer and author of the film "Shoah"; Claude Lefort, writer and philosopher; Jean Malaurie, ethnologist; Leo Matarasso , lawyer and President of the International League for the Liberation of Peoples; Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Prize winner; Danielle Mitterrand; Edgar Morin, sociologist and writer; Henri Noguères , lawyer and former President of the French League for Human Rights; Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize winner; Madeleine Robérioux, historian and former President of the League for Human Rights; Maxime Rodinson, orientalist and specialist in Islamic Studies; Andrei Sakharov , Nobel Peace Prize winner, physicist; Laurent Schwartz, mathematician, Professor of Mathematics at the Ecole Polytechnique; Paul Thibaud, director of the periodical Esprit; Germaine Tillon, sociologist; Jean-Pierre Vernant, Professor at the College de France; Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Hellenist, writer and Professor at the Sorbonne; Gunter Walraaf, German journalist; Marguerite Yourcenar , writer.
The founders of the Institute are Kurdish intellectuals and artists, well known in Kurdistan. Amongst them, the film maker Yilmaz Güney, whose film YOL won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1982; the Syrian Kurdish poet Cegerxwin; Hejar, Iranian Kurdish poet and linguist, translator of Avicenna into Persian and of the Coran and Omar Khayyam into Kurdish; Tewfiq Wahby, linguist and former Iraqi Minister of Education; Professor Q. Kurdo, grammarian and linguist at the Leningrad Institute of Oriental studies; H. Cindy, Kurdish writer from Armenia; Remzi Rasa, French Kurdish painter; N. Zaza, Swiss Kurdish writer and linguist.
Thanks to a subscription launched amongst the Kurds and their friends, the Institute has become the owner of its own premises since 1987. It also possesses a financial endowment, the income from which contributes towards the financing of its activities. These, essentially cultural and non profit-making, need external contributions in the form of gifts, public and private subsidies. Gifts from individuals and firms are tax deductible up to 6% of personal incomes or 3.25% of a firms turnover.
Since its foundation, the Kurdish Institute has benefited, in the form of support for its projects, from French public subsidies, principally from the Social Action Fund and the Ministry of Culture. Private organisations like the CCFD, the Fondation France-Libertés and Médecins du Monde have also co-financed some of its activities.
Finally, because of the European scale of its influence, the Kurdish Institute enjoyed subsidies from the European Union, the Swedish Agency for International Development, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, the International Olof Palme Centre, the Norwegian Labour Movement (LO), the Generalitat of Catalonia, and several Italian municipalities.
Anxious to preserve its independence, the Kurdish Institute refuses any gifts that might compromise this; it also refuses any financial aid from States that oppress their Kurdish population and, more generally, from any non-democratic State.