How to be a Muslim in Iraq: Arabic, Urdu, Kurdish

Kurdish and Arabic speakers in Iraq have been making new friends on social media. 

In the past year, the Kurdish language has become a popular choice among people of all faiths and ethnicities in the country, and the popularity of the Arabic-language version has surged.

Kurdish is a dialect of Arabic that dates back to the seventh century. 

A number of Arabic-speaking communities, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), have formed since the conflict began. 

“The Kurdish language is an important part of the culture, so I think it’s important to spread it,” said Siyal Khan, a 22-year-old Kurdish student at the University of Erbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. 

Khan’s friends in the Kurdish community have told her that it’s a very difficult time for them, since the Kurdish population has been heavily targeted in the conflict. 

According to the Kurdish National Council, about 1.4 million Kurds live in Iraq, making it the second largest Kurdish population in the world after Iran. 

The Kurdish people are a nation-state with a strong identity and tradition. 

While the Kurds are a large ethnic group, they also have a strong sense of nationalism and are proud of their culture. 

It’s hard to explain the language of the Kurds, Khan said, adding that she prefers Urdu to Kurdish.

Urdu is the language spoken in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as the majority of people in Syria and Iraq.

In the Kurdish-majority city of Kobani, the language has been a common sight, Khan recalled. 

Some Kurdish students and teachers say that the Kurdish people need to learn the language so that they can speak to other people and also to educate their own children, she said. 

They’re proud of the Kurdish culture, she added. 

Another Kurdish student, Nazanin Daghlas, said that she loves Urdu. 

She has an Arabic class that she takes from time to time, and she’s used to it. 

Even when the language is difficult, she says, she still speaks to the people.

“The language is beautiful and has meaning,” Daghls said.

The Kurdish National Committee for Education, Culture and Sports in Iraq (KNNE) said that its members have been doing the best to encourage Kurdish students to study the Kurdish languages, adding, “We are not only teaching Kurdish, we are teaching our own children.

We have to teach them the Kurdish way of life.” 

The NNEC has also launched a project, “Learning Kurdish in Iraq,” which will teach Kurdish language classes in schools in Kurdish-speaking areas of Kurdistan. 

On May 11, KNNE held a class to promote the language, Khan told Al Jazeera. 

Students were introduced to the language through an interpreter. 

Teachers at the class took a short quiz to find out the meaning of the words used in the language. 

When students finished the quiz, they were given the Kurdish word for ‘sahir,’ which is a noun meaning person. 

Afterwards, they took a survey, which they then shared with their classmates. 

One of the students told Khan that she likes Kurdish because it has a lot of meaning, but she also likes Urdu because it’s easier for her to understand. 

As for her mother, Khadija, she prefers to speak Urdu as her mother tongue.

Khan said that her mother has been speaking Kurdish for decades, and they speak every day.

“She’s not even a Muslim, she speaks both languages,” Khan said.

“I think she’s more comfortable in Urdu.” 

Keen to share her views, Khan shared an Arabic-accented version of a poem written by the Kurdish poet, Mehmet Pasha, who was born in 1923 in the Turkish town of Pasha.

Pasha’s poem is titled “A woman of the language,” and it describes a woman who speaks the Kurdish dialect. 

He also uses the Kurdish words for ‘pasha,’ ‘peshmerga,’ and ‘pash’ (mother).

“She speaks to me in a dialect that I know, but I don’t have to understand it to understand her,” Khan told The Washington Times. 

Read more about Kurdish languages and languages spoken in Iraq