Harvard University is launching its inaugural course covering Kurdish language and culture, responding to student-led advocacy with the “historic” announcement



Harvard University has introduced its inaugural course on Kurdish language, culture, history and politics, student newspaper The Crimson reported on Monday. The course began with Harvard’s fall semester and is led by Ahmad Mohammadpour, a socio-anthropologist and professor at Bentley University, who is originally from Rojhilat (Eastern or Iranian Kurdistan).

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences introduced the course in response to student-led advocacy efforts. 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 enrolled in the course. Iranbomy reached out to the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department, highlighting the need to introduce the course.

Dalal M. Hassane, another student signed up to the course and an editor with the Crimson, also played a role in creating the course. Hassane expressed her desire to learn the Kurdish language in an academic setting and collaborated with the department to find a suitable professor.

The course takes a non-traditional approach, offering a deep dive into Kurdish culture and research-based learning alongside language learning. Mohammadpour emphasised the significance of including Kurdish in Middle Eastern studies, saying: “How can we talk about Middle Eastern concepts and not teach the Kurdish language?”

Both Hassane and Mohammadpour expressed hopes for the future of the programme. Hassane is optimistic that the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department will eventually offer a degree in Kurdish. Mohammadpour hopes that the course will continue next semester by offering more advanced language options, and added that he hoped Kurdish will become a requirement for those pursuing Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard.

Mohammadpour described the course’s establishment as “historic,” stating that it has brought joy to millions of Kurds.

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