Yaser Ali: In and Out of Iraq: The Triple Marginalisation of Bahdinani Literature

It is difficult to claim that there is something called “Kurdish literature” next to Arabic literature in Iraq because two different Kurdish literatures exist: Sorani and Bahdinani. Indeed, as each of them has been written in a different Kurdish language and each has had a different story of emergence and development, it is difficult to find interaction between them. However, neither the Sorani speakers, consisting of the majority of Iraqi Kurds, admit this fact, nor do the Bahdinani, as the minority, plainly articulate this statement. Both groups consistently use the label “Kurdish literature” as an equivalent to “Arabic literature”. Due to this reason and its ramifications, and due to the ascendency of Sorani and its dominance pre-1991 and more or less post-1991, Bahdinani as a “small” literature remained marginalised, isolated, and invisible. It is not only marginalised by the Sorani institutions, as I argue, but it is also marginalised and made invisible by its neighbours, the Kurmanji Kurdish speakers outside of Iraq. This research, though it does not deny the negative impact of divided Kurdistan in creating this situation, attributes responsibility to the marginalization of Bahdinani literature in large part to the Kurds themselves. The controversial debates surrounding this issue will be elaborated to present a clear image of the circumstances that Bahdinani literature has gone through, especially during its existential struggles with Arabisation pre-1991, and alongside Soranisation pre- and post-1991. Through exploring this complicated image of Bahdinani literature and contextualising it, this research will serve to constitute a significant step towards introducing this marginalised, invisible, and isolated literature, which, both intentionally and unintentionally, has been neglected by non-Bahdinani Kurdish scholars and by Western Kurdologists.

Yaser Ali is a PhD candidate in Kurdish Studies at the University of Exeter. He earned his M.A. in Kurdish Literature and B.A in Kurdish from University of Duhok. He was a lecturer in the Department of Kurdish at the College of Arts, University of Duhok (2006-2011), and has published articles and two books in Bahdinani Kurdish: The Rhythmic Structure of Modern Kurdish Poetry (2007) and The Secrets of the Text (2004). As a member of the Kurdish Writer’s Union and the International Federation of Journalists, Ali has worked as an editor and secretary of Peyv Magazine (2004-2009), and as a reporter and translator for Evro Daily Newspaper (2012-2015). Currently, he is working on a book chapter about Bahdinani literature as a marginalised literature in and out of Iraq in A History of Kurdish Literature, which will be published by Walter de Gruyter.


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