Jun 01, 2012

Iranian Kurdistan: Cultural Institute Works Against Odds

Despite a lack of government support and limited resources, particularly funding, the place of Kurdish culture in Iran is being maintained by dedicated academics and activists keen to see their communities sustained now and into the future.

Below is an article published by Rudaw:


Wajdi Hatami, the head of the Ahmadi Xani Cultural Institute, says that his is the only Kurdish civil organization in Orumiyeh (Wirme in Kurdish), but that it remains unknown in and outside Iran due to the lack of a Kurdish media outlet in the area.

The institute was established 10 years ago. According to Hatami, the institute’s main goal is to organize cultural activities and conduct social and political research in the Kurdish society of that part of Iran.

The organization doesn’t have an independent source of income nor does it receive funds from the government. It relies on membership fees and volunteers.

Hatami says that although people appreciate such an organization and large numbers participate in their activities, it has not been an easy endeavor.

“Unfortunately, cultural activities are very difficult in countries where all the power is held by a certain group,” he says.

Last year, Ahmadi Xani brought together all the civil organizations in Iranian Kurdistan. The goal of the gathering, according to Hatami, was to create a union among Kurdish institutions.

“This was not an easy task but it was an important one,” Hatami says. “Over time, we will strive to make this happen whenever opportunities arise.”

Among the institute’s many activities is a Kurdish language course.

“We offer Kurdish language courses without restraint,” Hatami says. “People participate eagerly. The Kurdish language is our identity and it is our duty to promote it among Kurds.”

Despite a population of more than eight million, Kurds in Iran are not allowed to study in Kurdish.

Orumiyeh has a large Kurdish population. Hatami believes Kurds make up 50 percent. Of their situation in the city however, he says, “We can’t say the cultural situation is good or bad. But, I can say patriotism among the Kurds is high. The level of education is inclining. There are currently many graduates with important scientific degrees among the Kurds in Wirme.”

Alongside Kurds, Azeris live in the city. But Hatami says that the Azeris are in complete control of the political and administrative aspects of the city.

“The Kurds have been isolated politically,” he says.

The official television channel of Orumiyeh, which is affiliated with the Islamic Republic, broadcasts only one hour of Kurdish programming a day.

“The one hour program in Kurdish has many shortcomings,” Hatami notes. “People are not satisfied with it.”

Despite calls from Kurdish dissident groups to boycott Iran’s Parliamentary elections in March, many Kurds in Orumiyeh actively participated in the ninth round of the elections.

“In the previous round, the Kurds didn’t have any representatives in parliament,” Hatami says. “In order to fill this gap, the Kurds had to participate actively. So the active participation of the Kurds this time came as a reaction to the previous round. The Kurdish participation in the election was mostly regional, not general.”