Forbidden: Lesson from the Alphabet

Freedom is very good.
Our flag waves.
The earth is revived with water.
The leaves catch fire.
The mill grinds grain.
The water in the vessel is cold.

This is Lesson 34 from ‘Alfabe’, written by Mehmed Emín Bozarslan and published in 1968. ‘Alfabe’ is the first textbook for Kurdish learning that is published. It is a turning point for the Latin based alphabet of Kurdish since its creation by Prince J. Bedr Xan in the early 1930s.

‘Alfabe’ provokes immediate Turkish reaction. Emín is arrested and jailed under separatisms charges. He is released but jailed again under the military regime from 1971 to 1974.

Born in 1935 in Diyarbakir,  he seeks asylum in Sweden in 1978.

He gives his personal account on the aftermath of his textbook in an interview in October 1993.

“I decided as a Kurdish person and as a Kurdish writer to challenge the undemocratic and inhumane policy of the Turkish state and publish this book. I wrote and published it in 1968 in Istanbul. With the help of my friends I distributed it throughout Kurdistan, Istanbul, and Ankara. It was banned immediately. When I went to Diyarbakir, they arrested me.

They took me to trial, and the court asked me, “Why did you write this?” I said, “This language is a live language and people are speaking this language, and as a person in this area, I wanted to help people learn to read and write.”

‘Alfabe’ continues to be banned in Turkey. It is the only alphabet book in the world that is banned.

This is a revision of a biography by Dilan Roshani – Kurdish Academy of Language


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