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Harvard Offers Kurdish Language Course for First Time in University History

The Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department is housed at the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East.
The Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department is housed at the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Elise D. Hawkins and Christina M. Strachn, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard offered its first Kurdish Language course in the University’s history this fall after students from Kurdish-speaking backgrounds pushed for its creation.

The course focuses not only on the Kurdish language but also on topics in Kurdish culture, history, and politics.

Harvard invited socio-anthropologist and Bentley University professor Ahmad Mohammadpour to teach the course. Mohammadpour, who is from Eastern Kurdistan, Iran, pointed to the millions of people who speak the language.

“How can we talk about Middle Eastern concepts and not talk about or not teach the Kurdish language?” he said. “I’m glad that finally we got there, that we have at least a basic course on the Kurdish language.”

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences began offering the course following advocacy efforts from students.

Janan Iranbomy, president of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Iranian Students Association and chair of student advocacy and engagement of the Harvard Graduate Council, is a student in the Kurdish course.

Iranbomy said she was “surprised” the University did not offer a Kurdish course and reached out to the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department to make “a case for why the course is so important.”

“Something you experience in our current class is that it’s not just about learning the language,” she said. “It’s very different from the other language courses I took, just because it’s also a cultural immersion and very research-based as well.”

Another student in the class, Dalal M. Hassane ’26, also advocated for its creation.

“I wanted to learn the Kurdish language in a classroom, in an academic setting,” said Hassane, a Crimson Editorial editor.

She reached out to the NELC Department early last year and voiced her request.

“They were super supportive, really enthusiastic about the course,” Hassane said.

Hassane said she worked with the department to find a professor for the course.

“For me, personally, I felt a sense of urgency because I don’t want to continue pushing off learning the language,” she said. “I think for someone who doesn’t come from a Kurdish background or doesn’t really feel the magnitude of the issue, it doesn’t feel like as much of a priority.”

Hassane said she is hopeful that the NELC Department will eventually offer a Kurdish citation.

“I would love to see Harvard taking more of an initiative and preserving the Kurdish language and uplifting the Kurdish culture and history because many people do not know about it, and I think that should change,” she said.

Mohammadpour said he hopes that Harvard will continue to offer this course next semester, along with a more advanced language option. To encourage more students to learn the language, he also hopes that Kurdish will become a requirement for those pursuing Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard.

Regardless of the future of the program, Mohammadpour called the course’s creation “historic.”

“Harvard University, for the first time, put a smile on the lips of millions of Kurds because, for the first time, they are offering the Kurdish language,” he said.

—Staff writer Elise D. Hawkins can be reached at

—Staff writer Christina M. Strachn can be reached at

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