Progressive Labor Party Organizes Solidarity March With Harvard Yard Encampment


Encampment Protesters Briefly Raise 3 Palestinian Flags Over Harvard Yard


Mayor Wu Cancels Harvard Event After Affinity Groups Withdraw Over Emerson Encampment Police Response


Harvard Yard To Remain Indefinitely Closed Amid Encampment


HUPD Chief Says Harvard Yard Encampment is Peaceful, Defends Students’ Right to Protest

Op Eds

A Free Kurdistan Starts with Language Preservation

By Dalal Hassane, Crimson Opinion Writer
Dalal M. Hassane ’26, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Leverett House.

Just months ago, I felt the breeze of the motherland hold me so tightly I could almost sense my Kurdish ancestors offering me protection, healing, and joy. I felt Kurdistan — a place I believe to be a land of freedom despite the geopolitical forces that have shackled it across four states.

I stood in my mother’s city, Slemani, feeling more connected to her than ever, absorbing the memories of her childhood in the land that created her, uplifted her, and held her. In moments like these, my identity was not a sharp split, but an eternal bond to those who came before me.

Though my joy back in the homeland made every border on this Earth feel meaningless, internally I still experienced their lasting effects. I felt as though my linguistic disconnect from Kurdish identity affirmed the borders that have perpetuated harm against my people.

As a Kurdish and Syrian-Arab woman, my ties to language have always been complex. My English is better than both of my ancestral languages, and I feel a constant imbalance between Kurdish and Arabic. At Harvard, I was able to immediately enroll in an elementary Arabic class; however, it took almost a year of requesting language instruction to hear Sorani Kurdish in a Harvard classroom for the first time this month.

While I feel empowered by the opportunity to learn the Kurdish language at Harvard, I am infuriated that others do not get the same chance. In different parts of Kurdistan, the act of preserving our indigenous language is often treated as criminal. That is why it’s more important than ever to teach and learn the language across the diaspora.

On September 16, 2022 — around one year ago — Jina Amini, a Kurdish woman from Rojhelati (Eastern) Kurdistan died, reportedly after being beaten by the Iranian morality police. Her Kurdish name, the one her family used, was not the same one she used for official documents because of state discrimination. Today, the people of Kurdistan continue to repeat “jin, jiyan, azadi,” meaning “women, life, freedom,” as history repeats itself with the silencing of Kurdish heritage, language, and history.

Across Kurdistan, the Kurdish language has been a target of erasure because it is perceived as a threat to the regimes that try to diminish our culture, history, and freedom movements. Pressure on the usage and teaching of the Kurdish language persists in regions like Bakur (occupied Northern Kurdistan), where the streets of Amed and Mêrdîn continue to flourish with vibrant markets and songs of resistance. Occupying governments continue to inflict violent pressure on cities in Rojhelat like Sine, where the mountains stand taller and stronger than the bullets that pierce Kurdish bodies.

As I begin to learn Kurdish at Harvard, I think of women like Zara Mohammadi, a teacher from Sine, who was sentenced to five years in prison because she taught Kurdish in her class. I think of the people who are subjected to violence for preserving the culture I am just beginning to understand. I think of the people who are incarcerated for teaching, writing, and speaking the words I have just begun to learn.

Sometimes, the Kurdish language feels foreign to me, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am deeply connected to these lands. I, like other Kurds across the diaspora, long for a world of freedom, of azadi. I want not only to learn the language, but to preserve it. I want to dance the halparke as I understand every word that rings along to the sounds of the saz. But most importantly, I want to honor the work of people like Mohammadi, who embody resistance.

This process of learning the language that has survived generations in my family, generations in Kurdistan, is one that both resurfaces and introduces many emotions. I feel rage at the continued attack on Kurdish identity and language. I feel a sense of healing, as I recognize the words that filled my family’s household. Most importantly, I feel a sense of urgency, a desire to protect and share all aspects of my ethnicity. To continue reviving what doesn’t appear on a map.

We Kurds will continue to yell “jin, jiyan, azadi.” From Amed to Halabja, from Mahabad to Efrîn, we will uplift the narratives of those who fought to keep our struggle alive. We will remain unapologetically Kurdish, anywhere and everywhere, because people like Jina Amini were never able to. Because people like Zara Mohammadi are put behind bars for doing so. Because our rivers flow across borders as one and our mountains greet one another from miles away, embracing one another in a shared pain yet a shared sovereignty.

As I connect each letter in the Kurdish alphabet in a Harvard classroom, my pen gliding across the sheet in an effort to connect what was once fragmented, I think of a free Kurdistan in which our chants of “jin, jiyan, azadi” evoke our rich history, not our drawn-out suffering. I think of a free Kurdistan in which our language, history, and culture are no longer considered crimes in their being, but testaments to our ancestral lands.

Dalal M. Hassane ’26, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Leverett House.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Op Eds