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Turkish Foreign Affairs protests Kurdish language classes in Japan

On April 1, 2019, the University of Tokyo started a Kurdish language program led by Vakkak Colak and is currently teaching Kurdish to 40 Japanese students.

On April 29, 2019, a faculty member at the University of Tokyo stated that the Turkish Foreign Ministry is against the start of Kurdish language classes at a university in Japan. He told Kurdistan 24 on Monday that Turkey’s interference is counterproductive, adding that the university is free and independent to make its own decisions. “This is an academic issue, there is no reason for the Turkish Foreign Ministry or anyone else to interfere,” he stated. “There is academic freedom.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited the Kurdistan Region on Sunday after a trip to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Çolak said the Turkish government has contradictory policies regarding the Kurds.  

“On the one hand, they are trying to make good relations with one part of [the Greater] Kurdistan and, on the other hand, they are against the teaching of Kurdish in a foreign country.”

He noted that Turkish is also taught at schools and universities in the Kurdistan Region, especially to the Turkmen minority. “They should act in a fair way. They should not interfere in such kind of things.”

Çolak, a Kurdish community leader in Japan, who is also a member of the Japan-Kurdistan Friendship Association, previously published the first Kurdish-Japanese dictionary, and the first Kurdish-Japanese grammar book. Regarding his course, the Kurdish teacher described it as “a historical moment.” Although nearly 2,000 Kurds live in Japan, his students will mostly be Japanese.

“Other nations should learn about the Kurdish issue and the Kurdish language from Kurds,” he told Kurdistan 24. Çolak explained that just as Armenian history should not be taught by the Turkish people, nor the Turkish story by Greek people, Kurdish history should be taught by Kurds.

So far, the Turkish embassy in Japan has not released any public statement or confirmed the news.

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