The Australian Government Department of Home Affairs has translated several factsheets on the coronavirus in many languages, including the Kurdish Kurmanji dialect.
So far, the government information is only provided in the Kurmanji dialect, the most widely spoken Kurdish dialect in all four parts of the Greater Kurdistan in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, respectively.
The Australian government is yet to offer information about the coronavirus in Sorani Kurdish, predominantly spoken in southern parts of the Kurdistan Region and Iranian Kurdistan.
Mayda Ziabari, Executive Director of the Kurdish National Committee of Australia (KNCA), told Kurdistan 24 the KNCA “is proud” to be the first Australian organization to provide urgent and crucial information related to COVID-19 in Kurdish, including both the Sorani and Kurmanji dialects.
“KNCA reached out to the Australian government once translations of official government COVID-19 factsheets were provided in several languages excluding Kurdish. The government swiftly responded by producing the factsheets in Kurmanji for our community,” Ziabari stated.
“We are continuing to work with Australian government officials to broaden the Kurdish dialects available and to assist in providing the information to our Australian Kurdish community nationally.”
She added that the Australian public broadcast service SBS in Kurdish “must also be acknowledged for their role in providing information in Kurdish to the community, in both Sorani and Kurmanji.”
Roza Germian, the executive producer of SBS Kurdish Australia, told Kurdistan 24 that it is not the first time the Australian government “provides information in the Kurdish language, but it isn’t often either.”
“However, for COVID-19, they have to have information available in as many languages as possible,” she said. “The assumption is that the government aims to provide this information for communities that may not have a high number of English language proficiency.”
“Given that there are hundreds of Yezidi families that have arrived in Australia in the recent years, it could be one of the reasons why Kurdish (Kurmanji) is among those languages the Australian government has chosen to have COVID-19 information translated into,” Germian explained.
She highlighted that the challenge is most “Yezidis are unable to read Kurdish, especially the most vulnerable group, the elderly.”
“But, hopefully, that’s when we (as SBS Kurdish) come in handy.”
Although millions of Kurds worldwide speak Kurdish, the language is heavily suppressed in the Middle East region, especially in Iran and Turkey.
Meanwhile, Kurdish is recognized in Iraq through the Iraqi Constitution and is taught officially in the Kurdistan Region.
The local-Kurdish led administration in northern Syria also has a Kurdish-language education system, but the central government in Damascus does not recognize it.
Therefore, the move by Australia to provide official information in Kurdish is another step toward more international recognition of the language.
The Australian government is not the only country to provide information about coronavirus in Kurdish. Other governments or local official institutions in countries such as Finland, Ireland, Germany, and the United States have also provided official information in Kurdish.