Unlike their rulers, the Kurds were not able to preserve their written literature or what existed has been destroyed during many wars between many empires in Kurdistan. Furthermore the Kurdish scholars were employed by the courts of the shahs and sultans and were obliged to write in the official languages of the courts be it Persian, Arabic or Turkish. During the 20th century due to policies of assimilation and denial of existence, again the Kurds were not able to develop their literature.
Despite these difficulties facing the Kurdish nation, there are some surviving written texts and many of the oral history and literature are re-written in modern times. The Kurdish spirit is revealed in their literature, folk songs and music.
An important chapter in the history of Kurdish literature is connected with the name of Prince Sharaf Khan Bitlisi, author of an exceptional book, ‘Sharafnamah’. It is a documentary description between 1290-1597 and gives full classification of the Kurdish history and language.
There are many great works of literature from the Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish. The epic of Mem u Zin by Ahmedi Kahni written in the 17th century is well known. The folk language used by the poet is far from the formalities characterising the literary works of his time. Mem u Zin is the story of two tragically separated lovers, it is also an allegory of the tragic fate of the Kurds, separated and denied. It is very rich in describing Kurdish life and the way of Kurdish thinking with all its moral and class aspects. Khani has dedicated the following to the Kurds:
“So that it can not be said that the Kurds are illiterate in their nature. I have done all this for the Kurds so that they may know about love and are not deprived, either of reality or of their dreams.”
Modern writers and poets such as Jiger Khwin (another Kurmanji dialect poet), Goran, Bekas, Hajar, Hemin and Hedi are equally celebrated by the Kurds. Many of the new works of literature are published by Kurds in diaspora and adopting Latin alphabets for the Kurmanji dialects and a modified version of Perso-Arabic for Sorani.
Today in Iraqi Kurdistan Sorani is used in publications and for education. The Kurds in Iraq are perhaps more privileged than their brethrens elsewhere in developing Kurdish culture, literature and music. Many scholars and leading figures in Kurdish literature and poetry have left behind a wealth of masterpieces for generations to come.
Son of Emin Ali (head of the Bedirkhan family), was one of the founders of Kurdish National League, Khoybun, from his exile in Syria. Here he also published Hawar, a literary and patriotic journal, from 1932 to 1935 and from 1941 to 1943. Written in the Kurmanji dialect of Jazira, it introduced the Latin alphabet for Kurdish and developed what came to be widely accepted as standard written Kurmanji. Celadet Bedirkhan also wrote, together with Roger Lescot, the most influential grammar book of Kurmanji dialect. He died in 1951.
Another son of Emin Ali, worked with his brother Celadet in Khoybun and the journal Hawar. From 1943 to 1946 he published in Beirut the weekly Roja Nu in Kurdish and French. In 1948 he moved to Paris where he taught Kurdish at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilisations and published a bulletin of Kurdish studies. He died in Paris in 1978.
She was the daughter of Abdulrazaq Bedirkhan and his Polish wife Henriette. She was born in 1908 in Istanbul; Leila studied ballet in Germany and performed in Europe and the USA. She died in Paris in 1986.
Migdad Midhat Bedirkhan
He was together with his brother Emin Ali, figured in an abortive attempt at a Kurdish uprising. In 1898 he lived in exile in Cairo and published the first Kurdish journal, Kurdistan. After the first five issues he returned to Istanbul for health reasons and left his brother Abdulrahman in control of the journal.
He is an elder brother of Celadet and Kamuran, published the journal named Kurdistan in Istanbul in 1908, following the Young Turk revolution. Accused of supporting anti–Young Turk uprising in 1909, he was jailed. Later he lived in exile in Cairo, where he published a few more issues of Kurdistan and several tracts in French, Arabic and English stating Kurdish claims for independence.
Mehmed Emin Bozarslan
He was born in 1934 in Diyarbakir, Turkey. He began his public career as the mufti of Kulp district, but his critical attitude forced him to give up his position. Later he was imprisoned several times for his writings. His books include Alfabe, a children’s primer on Kurdish; importance translations of two classic, the Kurdish history Sharafname and Ahmad-i Khanis Mem-u-Zin; and a few collections of short stories. Since 1978 he has lived in Sweden and produced some twenty new books, including annotated reeditions of Kurdish journals from the beginning of this century.
M. Nuri Dersimi
He was born in Hozat in Dersim in 1890 into one of the few literate families. Nuri became involved in the Kurdish associations (1911-14) and spent the war years as a military veterinarian in Erzincan; he then moved to the Kocgiri district taking part in the Kocgiri uprising of 1920. In 1930s he was a veterinarian in Dersim and in close contact with Seyid Reza. Just before the outbreak of 1937 resistance movement in Dersim, he had to flee the area. In his exile in Syria he wrote Kurdistan Tarihinde Dersim (Dersim in the History of Kurdistan). His memoirs (Hatiratim) were published posthumously.
From Mahabad of Iranian Kurdistan, learned photography in Syria from his elder brother, the Kurdish historian and journalist Hussain Huzni Mukriyani. Following the reformation of Iraqi government after the British mandate, Giw followed his brother to Iraq in 1923. In Rawanduz they published the Kurdish magazines Zare Kurmanji (1926-32), Ronaki (1935-36) and Hataw. Giw became a professional photographer in 1933 and continued to do studio photography in Arbil and owned a print house until his death in 1968.
Piremerd (Tawfiq Beg Mahmud Agha)
He was one of the most illustrious poets of Iraqi Kurdistan. Born in Sulaimania in 1868, following his well-to-do family tradition, he made a carrier in Ottoman government service. Later he was active in Kurdish nationalist circles and wrote nationalist poetry. From 1926 to 1938 he edited the weekly Kurdish newspaper Jiyan. He died in 1950.
A Kurdish novelist was born in 1898 in a village near Kars (which then was controlled by Russia). During World War I, he served the Russian army as an interpreter. After the war he joined the Bolsheviks and worked as a teacher among the Kurds of Armenia. At the Oriental Institute of Leningrad, he assisted in developing an alphabet for the Kurdish language and became a member of the editorial board of the Kurdish newspaper Rija Taze, published in Yerivan from 1930 to 1937. His first and most celebrated novel, Kurdish Shepherd (Shivane Kurd), was published in 1935, (in Russian only after serious censorial edits). Like many Kurds he was banished during the years of Stalinist paranoia, spending nineteen years in Siberia. He published two more novels after his return to Armenia where he died in 1978.
Poem by Hemen, recited in the Celebration of Independent Kurdistan, Mahabad
Young ones! Peshmerga! Brave ones!
On the borders of Kurdland
On the borders
Here a child dies..
My wound is hurting
In tears she said:
Again, the child cries:
Will my pigeon die ?
All broke in tears
Dear.. your pigeon died
And she broke in tears
Mother.. my hair is falling
Some water please..
“Tre Barzanjee poem”
Fantasies of a land that’s free
Asleep with our eyes opened wide
Each step we take may be the end
Stuck in a world full of sadness and sorrow
Fathers portray the image of brave
Looking ahead is what we all fear
As the dirt hits your face! Unable to run
Tepidity in our heats, though never shown
On a strangers land we now roam
Please free my sister! Don’t take my
An empty promise! No future for hope
You’re randomly taken to the middle of no
Now tied up and wearing a blindfold
There is some who will refuse
Now left alone to die
Crying for someone to lend a hand
Still we continue to put on a smile
A Tour in Hawraman
A mountain mass, wild and defiant,