Kurdish intellectuals including linguists and artists came together and held the first founding congress of the Kurdish Institute in Switzerland on October 11, 2020.
Announcing the official establishment of the Kurdish Institute on the 15 May 2021, Kurdish Language Day, Kurdish intellectuals aim to mobilise efforts to support the cultural struggle of the Kurdish diaspora living in Switzerland.
The Kurdish Institute plans to support efforts for the recognition of the legal status of the Kurdish community in Switzerland.
The institute will also offer new opportunities to help Kurdish children overcome difficulties of integration that they face, trying to cope with different languages in Switzerland, and will explore what legal opportunities exist for Kurdish students to study in better schools.
”After a series of meetings, the need to establish a Kurdish Institute in Switzerland has emerged. The torch that Celadet Bedirxan and his friends lit for the development of Kurdish language and culture has kept burning until this day.We are in Switzerland to serve the Kurdish language and culture and it’s survival. We are proud to keep this torch alight via this institute,” said Cemal Özçelik, co-chair of the Kurdish Institute, in an interview with Yeni Özgür Politika.
The Kurdish Institute also promote activities they carry out in other languages, especially German, French and Italian, which are among the official languages of Switzerland. “However, the main issue for us, is to ensure that the Kurdish language is used widely and spoken as the first language by Kurdish people. For this reason we will continue to make our official statements in Kurdish,” Özçelik noted.
Özçelik also pointed to the problems of the Kurdish diaspora that their institute will focus on solving.
“Our main problem in Switzerland is that we, as Kurds, are not recognised by the state as a separate identity. Although the Kurdish language is listed as a mother language option and translation services are offered, the Kurdish language is not recognised in written form by the official authorities,” he said.
He went on: “They categorise the Kurds according to the countries they come from and their official languages, not to their national identity. Thus, they force Kurds to read the official texts written either in Turkish, Persian or Arabic languages.”
Defining this attitude of the Swiss authorities as a “kind of denial and assimilation policy,” Özçelik said, “We will express on every occasion that we do not recognise such a policy based on the imposition of the colonial states to force their identity and language on Kurdish society.”
As a civil-democratic institution, the institute is at the beginning of a long journey, but the pioneers of the institution are determined to overcome the difficulties they will face along the way.
“We are well aware of the challenges we are facing,” Özçelik said. “We do not expect to reach all our goals one day to the other. We will move step by step, but firmly with a realistic and determined approach.”